Producer Iain Canning Interview: Widows

Iain Canning is a film producer best known for producing The King’s Speech, for which he won an Academy Award.  He went on to produce, and get another Academy Award nomination for Lion, starring Dev Patel. Canning’s most recent project is Widows, a heist film co-written and directed by Steve McQueen, based on the 1983 ITV series of the same name.

Screen Rant: Amazing film, amazing film. Widows has a lot of female empowerment. Can you talk to me about how that kind of plays into contemporary times?

Iain Canning: Well, it was very strange for me, that when we originally—Steve [McQueen] came to me and said, “I am interested in adapting Lynda La Plante’s Widows into a film.” That when we started to talk in various film circles about this idea, people were like, “Oh, that's such a new idea. That's such a fresh idea.” But this was in 2012, 2013. And the original TV show was made in ‘83. So, I just sort of felt that from a contemporary perspective, I needed the film have to get made. And Steve is a wonderful person to tell the story. But also, that we couldn't keep on having it being a sort of new idea, that a group of women could lead a crime thriller in 2018.  It seemed crazy to me.

Screen Rant: The film takes place in Chicago, obviously. The 18th Ward more specifically.  How much research went into the 18th Ward and Chicago? Because it feels like its own character to an extent.

Iain Canning: Yeah. We really had to find a particular ward within Chicago that would act as sort of a metaphor for all of the dynamics within all the different characters. And we felt that, historically, that one made most sense in terms of the characters and their history and their economic status.  So, we really did work very hard to try and work out exactly what would be the perfect place. But it is a metaphor, really, in a way, for any city around the world. But it was very particular in terms of giving us everything we needed to be able to tell the story we wanted to tell.

Screen Rant: So, Steve, yourself, and Gillian [Flynn] are like the perfect combination to make a film. Can you talk to me about how Gillian and Steve met up and how that fostered the screenwriting process?

Iain Canning: Sure. So, just the concept of Steve McQueen and Gillian working together was an incredible thrill as a producer. It was like, “This is fantastic.” So, I did manage to come along to their first meeting. And it was in Chicago. And I remember both of them sat there, sort of looking at the skyline, some newspapers in front of us about what was going on in the city. And it just had to be Chicago. And I think the city just lends itself to all of the storylines that we did.  And in terms of their process, it's a real-- Steve describes it as two great guitar players from a band working together. They're separate. They have different moments where they come in and out. But overall, it's best when they're playing together. And I think that's how it really worked. It was scripts going back and forth. Truly across the ocean and a lot of fun. It was a big-- it was a very sort of strong idea that it was a film. We are taking the idea of the TV series, but we’re making a film. So, we had to make some choices.

Screen Rant: So, with the script being so in depth, and all the characters so flushed out, and all the scenes brilliant, was there any scene in particular where you knew it was going to be a particular challenge for you?

Iain Canning: I think that we knew that it was going to be a challenge. I guess in some ways, it was going to be an interesting process to do what may be conceived as a traditional action sequence, with a Steve McQueen film. So, it was a super fun journey for Steve and I. And we worked with some incredible stunt people, who are artists themselves. I think that's what we realized, is that with the stunts and the first 10 minutes of the film, that you don't-- as a filmmaker, you don't have to be scared of that process if you find the right collaborators with it. And we really did there.

Screen Rant: Well, you guys did a brilliant job. The film is amazing. Thank you so much for your time.

Iain Canning: Thank you.

More: Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo and Bryan Tyree Henry Interview for Widows

Key Release Dates
  • Widows (2018) release date: Nov 16, 2018
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