She recounts with astonishing frankness her journey at Vanity Fair, from the surprise success of her independent film Little Woods to this MCU blockbuster.
Nia DaCosta was only 30 years old and had only directed one film when she was chosen by Kevin Feige to direct The Marvels. Four years later, this sequel to Captain Marvell, big success of 2019 with Brie Larson (the film by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck made $1 billion in revenue), but victim of sexist criticism which tarnished its reception, is preparing to be released in the cinema: also bringing together Teyonah Parris and Kamala Khan, the blockbuster will be visible from November 8, exactly.
The director of The Marvels presents her three heroines as sisters
In 2019, this African-American artist was revealed to the public thanks to Little Woods, a dark thriller filmed with the support of the Sundance festival, which appreciated its script. Starring Tessa Thompson and Lily James, the film earned $77 million in revenue for less than $1 million in budget, which caught the attention of Marvel boss Kevin Feige. It must be said that this score allowed its creator to start her career with a record: that of the first film directed by a black woman to top the American box office. “That’s crazy, she confides to Vanity Fair. I thought it was Ava (DuVernay) or Gina (Prince Bythewood) or Melina (Matsukas) who had accomplished this. I was in shock.”
Committed immediately to give a facelift to Candymanthe 1990s horror film she revived with Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, so she signed on to direct The Marvels, which also broke a record even before its release: with a budget of more than $200 million, it was the largest sum ever spent by a film studio for a film directed by a black woman. Ava DuVernay previously held this record thanks to another Disney production, A shortcut in time (which cost 100 million all round, not counting its promotion).
“Will they destroy my soul?”
Nia DaCosta says she sought advice from directors who, like her, came from independent cinema before signing for big superhero productions, like Chloe Zhao (The Eternals), Taika Waititi (the last Thor) or James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy). Also quoting Jordan Peele (Get Out) as an example to follow, she reveals that she hesitated before signing for such a big project: “I asked them : ‘Are they going to try to kill me? Will they destroy my soul? Is Kevin Feige a bad person?’ (laughs) Everyone answered me: ‘No, he’s just a guy who was a nerd.’“
She then recounts, more seriously, having accepted while considering that it would be a film by Kevin Feige in which she collaborated, but not 100% her own production: “It’s a Kevin Feige production, it’s his film. I think we live in this reality, but I still tried, knowing that sometimes I was going to have to sit on the bench back.”
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She then explains how she considered having been hired to contribute certain ideas, while being aware that she would not shoot the entire film alone. Particularly because Disney is known for having teams responsible for staging action passages or those requiring a lot of digital retouching. Sequences that can be filmed without calling on the director. Without detailing the process, she comments: “You can’t do anything except be yourself. They can keep your suggestions, take away some… that’s your job.”
She adds that considering The Marvels as a team collaboration more than as “her” film makes it no less an ambitious project, which she takes seriously: “People tell me: ‘Oh, you’re making a Marvel movie. Cool, cool, cool.’ But you know, I’ll have my name on it, I want to be able to be proud of it.”
She also says she had moments of stress during the production of The Marvels. She then sent text messages to Destin Daniel Cretton, the director of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Ringsfor advice. “I told him: ‘I’m overwhelmed, it’s stressing me out.’ Sometimes you’re in the middle of a scene and you wonder: ‘What the f*** does all that mean?’ Or you’re watching an actor acting out a scene where something crazy is happening in space, but really they’re just staring at a blue screen. Obviously there were difficult days, days when we said to ourselves: ‘No, that doesn’t work.’“ And that’s where Kevin Feige was able to reassure her thanks to his long-time experience within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
She adds that she was able to surround herself with people she trusted The Marvels, what she didn’t necessarily expect from such a big production: “I realized that it wasn’t about how much power I could have on set. It wasn’t about how many good films I could make or how many awards I could win. No, it what matters is the people I can hire, who will come and surround me. What has surprised me most recently is the extent to which I have received signs of respect from white men of “middle age I work with.”
Always so frank about her perception of Marvel productions, she admits to wanting to return to more independent cinema. “It’s really fun to play in this world, and to help build it, but it also gave me the desire to create my own universe”she concludes.
There will be no Miss Marvel season 2 on Disney+ if The Marvels flops