Gina Prince-Bythewood, director of “The Old Guard”, avoids “sexy cat fights”

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Charlize Theron fait a very believable tough guy, tired of the world. In Netflix’s latest comic book-adaptation-cum-action blockbuster, The old guard, Theron plays an ageless warrior, Andromache of Scythia (Andy for short), who has been fighting for humanity for so long that she doesn’t even remember her age. She and the team she leads are virtually irremediable, capable of healing even the most serious physical injuries, but when a new immortal potential, the Nile, a young Marine played by KiKi Layne, emerges for the first time in centuries, she finds Andy embittered and apathetic. The imminence of death and helping a determined species to plunge into violence and chaos are accompanied by heavy emotional sanctions.Of course, The old guard could have easily bypassed all the troubled emotional depths and produced a boring and flashy movie about cool old people who are really great with swords. The merit of the surprises in the film – it’s inclusiveness, thoughtfulness, diversity – goes largely to two people: Greg Rucka, who wrote the original comic The old guardand Gina Prince-Bythewood, who directed the adaptation of Netflix.

Prince-Bythewood is best known for making independent films with a deeply personal narrative, such as Love & Basketball and The secret life of bees. The old guard is not only his first action film, but also the first action film directed by a black woman. The old guard and all the Hollywood flair it represented was an opportunity (and a strange burden) that she enthusiastically accepted. WIRED met Prince-Bythewood to get his perspective on comics, diversity in Hollywood, and the focus of women, especially women of color, in a genre dominated by white men.

Dear Hollywood, hire more female directors

According to Prince-Bythewood, when Skydance Media, the production company behind The old guard, as well as action franchise classics like Terminator, Mission: Impossible, and Star Trek, looking for directors, they were specifically looking for a woman. “I am very grateful to Skydance. They were so intentional and said [they were interested] because of my previous work with Love & Basketball. They wanted this depth of character and history to The old guard. It’s a big problem, ”she says. “Do not watch a director and do not look for their action sequences, because she will rarely be there. Watch the movies. Do they make good movies? If they are, trust and believe that no matter the genre, we will do what we need to do. Otherwise, inequality will continue to persist.

But why The old guard?

However, it was not only the inclusiveness of the production company that prompted Prince-Bythewood to make an adaptation of Rucka’s comic strip. “I love action movies. This superhero thing, good against evil, I like it all. Wonder Woman really inspired me. I loved the direction they were taking. Black Panther changed the culture, changed the game. Logan is a beautiful film in which I cried. I wanted my turn, ”she says. The other key factor was, of course, the source material itself. “Much of the diversity [in the film] was in the original script. I was so drawn to this: two women in the center and a young black heroine woman, the relationship between Nicky and Joe [who are gay], and that Joe, who is from the Middle East, is a hero, instead of being demonized because people from the Middle East are so often in the movies. It’s a very global story and has global characters. ”

Adaptation is being biological

Prince Bythewood often uses the word “organic” to describe the things she likes The old guard. She likes to feel as if the elements of the story came from a real place, and this also informs her approach to adaptation. “There is a reason why we are all here: it is because this person created these beautiful characters. Greg [Rucka] and I collaborated on it together. It was a really great relationship based on mutual respect, ”she says. “I also need to have my own vision. When I started spinning around these characters, I wanted people to look at the screen and see the world I wanted to see. The other Nile Marines are two women of color because it is actually the truth. Most of the time, when you see Marines, you see white men, but the reality is that there are a lot of people of color in our military. For Prince Bythewood, having your film reflect the real world rather than the whitewashed alternative world of Hollywood blockbusters is organic diversity – a way to get things done by bringing them back to the present.

Avoid “Sexy Catfight”

Fighting women seriously – not to mention fighting between women – are a relative rarity in action movies, and are often played for laughs or lecherous looks when they occur. Prince-Bythewood wanted to reverse the trend. “I always wanted to focus on their athleticism and their skills, never on their sexuality. Never allow it to be a sexy cat fight, ”she says. “I also wanted to stay true to the fact that they were women, not just create the same type of choreography that I would do for a man. Will Nile pick up Andy and throw her on a plane? No. Women have a different type of strength. The question is how does it punch and to which part of the body. Prince Bythewood was also aware of giving his prominent wives, especially the Nile of KiKi Layne, the kind of camera focus that is rarely given them, even outside of the action scenes. One of his favorite moments throughout the film is just that Nile gets on an elevator. “It’s such a heroic moment. We stayed on a black female character for 15 floors to marinate in what it was like the Nile to make this decision, accept who she is and go save the day, “said Prince Bythewood.

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