Ava DuVernay appeared on many a film buff’s radar thanks to her work on Selma, the critically-acclaimed (and Oscar-winning) Martin Luther King Jr./Civil Rights movement drama that was released in 2014. In truth though, DuVernay has been directing films for well over a decade – with critical darlings I Will Follow and Middle of Nowhere under her belt too – and served in a publicist/promotional capacity on such hits as Spider-Man 2, I, Robot, Collateral, and Hairspray during the 2000s. Thus, it’s only fitting that she’s now been considered to direct some big-budget features herself.
Marvel Studios did approach DuVernay with an offer to call the shots on the upcoming Black Panther solo movie, starring Chadwick Boseman as the film’s super-heroic namesake. However, the filmmaker passed on that project and instead accepted another studio-backed film: A Wrinkle in Time, Disney’s live-action adaptation of the Madeleine L’Engle fantasy novel of the same name (published in 1963). DuVernay has nevertheless set a new precedent with her decision to sign on for a Disney fairy tale feature.
Deadline (hat tip to Women in Hollywood) is reporting that A Wrinkle in Time has a budget that exceeds $100 million, making it the first such $100 million live-action film to be directed by a woman of color. The project has received an $18.1 million incentive from the California Film Commission to film in the state; it’s also the largest incentive the program has offered since it expanded in 2014. A Wrinkle in Time is expected to bring in $85 million in qualified spending to California too, with a cast and crew numbering around 400.
DuVernay, for her part, posted the following on Twitter in response to these reports:
"Stones in the road? I'll save each one. Then one day I'll build a castle." - Fernando Pessoa https://t.co/8GPRKfp5hj— Ava DuVernay (@AVAETC) August 2, 2016
Like other benchmarks involving either women and/or people of color in Hollywood, DuVernay setting a precedent by directing A Wrinkle in Time is long overdue but welcome news all the same. Big-budgets genre films in general have shown similar signs of progress in that respect lately, with recent examples including Peter Sohn (a Korean-American filmmaker) directing Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur and Taiwanese-American director Justin Lin moving on from the Fast & Furious franchise to helm this year’s Star Trek Beyond. On the horizon we have Patty Jenkins (Monster) directing Wonder Woman, Ryan Coogler (Creed) co-writing/directing Black Panther, Rick Famuyiwa (Dope) calling the shots on The Flash, and James Wan (The Conjuring 1 & 2) serving at the helm on Aquaman.
A Wrinkle in Time is also a unique situation, in that it’s based on a novel written by a woman, adapted for the screen by another woman (Frozen‘s co-writer/director Jennifer Lee), helmed by another woman (DuVernay) and set to feature a primary cast with several women (Orphan Winfrey now among them). Exceptions like Fifty Shades of Grey aside, that’s a rare situation for a Hollywood studio feature. As DuVernay suggests with her Twitter response, it’s one step forward, but any progress in the name of inclusivity is welcome – setting the stage for more talented storytellers (like DuVernay) to have their voices heard on a bigger stage… and hopefully not just for the first time ever, either.
A Wrinkle in Time doesn’t have an official release date yet, but is expected to arrive in 2017.