Steve McQueen Interview: Widows

Steve McQueen directed and produced 2013’s 12 Years a Slave, for which he won an Academy Award, BAFTA Award, and Golden Globe Award.  His most recent work is Widows, a heist film he co-wrote and directed, based on the 1983 ITV series of the same name.

Screen Rant: First of all, amazing, amazing job on the film. A lot of twists, a lot of turns. Now, I know this was a originally a British '80s miniseries, I believe. Why was it that you wanted to adapt that?

Steve McQueen: Well, I said this before, but again I was a 13-year-old child and identify with those women at that age.  Of being judged on their parents and deemed not being capable. And I was being judged in the same way as a black child growing up in London in the 80’s. So, there was an immediate sort of connection. But what was interesting for me about it, was how they circumnavigated and turned on its head those stereotypes. And went on this sort of heist, went on this journey, exciting, exhilarating journey to sort of accomplish their goals. It was thrilling.

Screen Rant: Now why was the decision made for the setting to be in Chicago, mainly the 18th Ward? Because it seems like the 18th Ward is its own character in this film. So, why was that decision made?

Steve McQueen: Well, again, I think it's just not thinking about the Ward, but Chicago-- Again, you get into a situation where you're going from a wider situation to a smaller situation, a nucleus.  It was very interesting because in some ways what we wanted to do is portray the city and to see all the tensions and differences of one era to the next. And again, how nepotism works and how it has been ingrained in this city for a long, long time.

Screen Rant Now, I love the characters are so rich.  Jamal Manning, and then you had Jack Mulligan, both J.M. initials and juxtapositions of each other. Can you talk to me about Jamal?  Mainly because he seemed like more of a product of his environment. Whereas the other, Jack, being more nepotism. Talk to me about those characters.

Steve McQueen: Jamal is almost, he's like a Michael Corleone. He wants to make his way in to legitimize his business. I mean a lot of like how grand families in America have done.  Legitimize their families and their power through criminality. That’s how it is.

Screen Rant: There's a great shot, and I'm sure you've heard it a lot, is the private scene between Colin Farrell's character of Jack and his assistant in the car. And you are seeing Chicago as they're driving by. Was that on the page? It was on the page, it was written like that?

Steve McQueen: Yes. Yes, it was written like that and well defined as we were sort of beginning to shoot it. It's just one of those things where you sort of— For me it was about how you-- again, not wanting the story to slack. Not wanting to the story to sort of stagnate.  So, you move it along. That was always my aim.

Screen Rant: Interesting. Now, the cast in this is amazing, it's out of this world. So many great actors.  How did you assemble all of them?

Steve McQueen: Through-- I'm fortunate enough that people want to work with me. And I'm fortunate enough that people are available.  Then fortunate enough that I found people. Again, you always look for people and if you’re lucky enough, you find them.  I really do think I found a few actors that were just amazing. And, of course, people were there originally. For example, Daniel Kaluuya, I cast him before he was in Get Out.  And also, following him since 2011 when he was in this theater play called Sucker Punch at the [Royal Court Theatre].  And then Cynthia Erivo, this is her first picture, this is her first film. Elizabeth Debicki, I mean I never saw her. I actually gave her an audition because I heard that she was in a great play by Jean Genet.  And I thought, “Okay, let's see what she's like.” I’d never seen her before. It's about finding things out and investigating oneself and not listening to people when they talk about, for example, Michelle Rodriguez being difficult. I mean I talked to her, she’s a great actress.

Screen Rant: Well, Mr. McQueen, great film. Thank you so much.

Steve McQueen: Thank you.

More: Read Screen Rant's Widows Review

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