Plus, the director talks to us about making the epic adventure film while on location.
We’ve all seen the headlines about Ava DuVernay directing Disney’s adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, making her the first woman of color to helm a $100 million film.
But what is even more inspiring about DuVernay, whose credits include Selma, Queen Sugar and 13th, taking the reins of Madeleine L’Engle’s beloved classic is her ability and desire to spread the love. Per DuVernay’s vision, the black, white, brown and yellow faces in front of and behind the camera of A Wrinkle in Time are impossible to ignore – especially where casting is concerned.
For instance, Storm Reid (12 Years a Slave) is bringing her Black girl magic to the movie as 13-year-old heroine Meg Murry and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle) is doing the honors as her mom, Dr. Kate Murry. Chris Pine plays Dr. Alex Murry, her dad. Meanwhile, Oprah Winfrey will dazzle as Mrs. Which, Mindy Kaling will play Mrs. Who and Reese Witherspoon will costar as Mrs. Whatsit.
“The idea of making Meg a brown girl and making her family multicultural makes sense,” DuVernay told ESSENCE.com during a set visit in Santa Clarita, Calif., earlier this year. "To do things the same way because that’s the way they’ve always been done, is something I can’t abide.”
“I also wanted this journey to be more than three old ladies with white hair,” DuVernay added. “Instead, they are three different ages, races, cultures, body types and sizes.”
DuVernay applied a more inclusive touch to the ancillary characters as well.
“Michael Pena, a Latino actor, is going to be the Red and even Principal Jenkins is being played by Andre Holland, an African-American actor. The name sounded black to me,” she said with a chuckle. “The exciting part is that Disney and the producers on the project immediately embraced my ideas and my approach to casting.”
DuVernay said she isn’t worried about possible critics who want to stay true to every word L’Engle wrote. What matters more is that fans of the book feel as good about her big-screen version as they did when they first discovered A Wrinkle in Time, she said.
“I am not concerned with purists who imagine Meg as a White girl with red hair,” DuVernay said. “What matters is that through the power of Disney, this film is going to be seen worldwide. And at the center is Storm Reid who will make you root for her as a brown girl named Meg who triumphs against the darkness.”
In turn, Reid is ready to rise to the challenge, she said.
“I was intimidated at first because this is my first big movie where I’m in the lead role,” the 14-year-old confessed. “But Ms. Ava made me feel comfortable and I was able to calm down and do the work.”
A Wrinkle in Time arrives in theaters in March 9, 2018.