Talking Stone Film

Film Reviews & Headlines

– Thank you so much for being here. – It’s my pleasure. – Yeah, and the film premiered last night, is that right?
– Yeah. – How was it for you? How did it go for you? – I think it went really well. – So Kasi, what we’re gonna do a lot of your work also deals with memory,
– Yes. and history memory. So in that regard, we’re gonna
go backwards through your, we’re gonna start with Harriet. So let’s talk a little bit about it first, it’s been a long awaited project. – Yes. – It’s been something that audiences have been waiting for for a long time. It’s been kind of floating
around Hollywood for a while. Has read an interview where you said you have to be in love
with the project to do it. Tell us a bit about how this project grabbed you and how you came to it. – I went in for a general
meeting with a producer. So I was tricked into taking a meeting that I didn’t know what
the meeting was about. And partway into the meeting, she said you know, I’m involved in the Harriet Tubman Project. I said oh, that’s right. And we started talking about it. And the way she was talking,
I thought she was asking me to rewrite the script, which she was. So I said well, yeah, that’s interesting. But you know, it’d be
much more interesting if I was directing it. And she said that’s what
we’re talking about. And all of a sudden, my
heart started pounding, (laughs) my blood pressure went up. – Was this something
that you’d been tracking and going I’d love to know? – Not really.
– No? – No not at alL, I knew that
there were various projects that had been in the works for years dealing with Harriet Tubman. No, it kind of was in
some ways the perfect way to get me in a room and
spring it on me (laughs). The perfect way, because I
had to take my own temperature like I had to, I had to analyse my
physiological reaction. And when I saw that it
was fear and excitement and just how fast my heart was beating. That’s when I realised I said, okay, this is, you’re excited. You know, this is tremendous. – And is that often how you work? You take the temperature
in the moment that way. – Yeah, usually it happens very slowly. – Okay. – So usually it happens
like, I’m aware of something and then I just, I find myself, you know, somebody will talk to me about a project and then I’ll like, I’ll find myself just Googling stuff, or I’ll buy a book. – Right. – And then I’m like, a dreaming about it. And then I’m like looking
up that thing again. And then I might, you
know, read something. And then one day, I always
describe it, like, you know, you might work with a
co-worker or something. And you’re like, oh,
you know, nice person. I like this person. And then one day you can’t breathe. That’s the way it’s like for me. One day, it’s like, I can’t live without this.
– They are gorgeous. It’s like falling in love,
exactly like falling in love. – Interesting. So we’re gonna show a clip from the film, so it’s the trailer of the film so there’s no spoilers in it. And we’re going to talk about the interesting casting of this
film afterwards as well. So if you’d like to show
the first clip, please. (audience applause) I get, I get I’ve seen the
film so I get real chills. I mean, interestingly, I
get more I get more chills now I’ve seen the film. I saw the trick, right? Right, right. So, okay, let’s talk about Cynthia Erivo. I can’t remember a leading lady like her in my living memories and actress. Tell us about, you’ve worked with some of the finest black
actors of our generation. Tell us about working with Cynthia. – This was a perfect actor
director relationship. Wow, where can I start? So I met Cynthia, So Cynthia had been had, they were talking to Cynthia so Cynthia been involved with the project before I was approached. My first meeting with her I had done research on on Harriet
and so she she was beginning to be very concrete to me like a very, you know, like she was sitting next to me I started to have a real sense of her. And then I met Cynthia
who’s very glamorous, you know, and beautiful. But there was so much
about her that was Harriet, you know, her physical stature. Which became important to me
in the research, you know. Which is something that in
portraying a person like this, another director might
not think was important but to me that she was so
tiny, was kind of an awesome. – It’s important watching the film. – Yes. – To see her outflanked this way and that she has this result. – Yeah, she’s, she’s very small and very
strong and very fast, and very awesome like, Harriet, you know. And so when I saw her,
we instantly started the way that she would talk the way that we were
talking about it together. I could tell okay, this is I
think this is going to work. but I honestly I still have
had a lot of uncertainty. And there were things that I wouldn’t know until we started digging deep into it. Not uncertainty because
of anything other than this person has to pull
off this whole movie. It’s like if I don’t get this performance, I don’t have a movie. And so she better be incredible. And then as we started working on it, the way that we would talk
about it, I could just tell. – Yeah. You know, the way that we
could discuss it together and just, you know, like, we talked about looking at her face and looking at her mouth and really kind of channelling
her feeling her. – Yeah. And she talked about her voice and where her voice is going to sit and, and the way I could
tell her approach to it. But it wasn’t really until the first day, the first day I lost all concern. She came to set is Harriet and I was like, okay, there she is. – Yeah, she certainly is the, the other thing that you
evoke in in this film that has cropped up in many of your films and definitely in your first film, is her relationship between spirituality. Her relationship between God. And particularly the
relationship between black women and God and spirituality. Which have again rarely seen portrayed in any other filmmakers work, which is what draws me to yours. Can you tell us a bit about why you bring that forward in your work? – Yeah, I mean, it’s a big part of my life in a way that that is
not necessarily apparent. Because I’m not I’m not
particularly religious. But it’s a personal
conversation, you know. And it’s like, I kind of
believe in everything, I’m just one of those people. So, I grew up that way. I grew up, Eve’s Bayou,
like my first film. A lot of it is completely made up, but the kind of most extraordinary parts of it were based on my family, you know. Like I had this aunt that
was this psychic counsellor and she married five times and you know, her lover killed her second husband, and she was a very colourful character. And, so I grew up in a very kind of colourful Southern family. And that’s the way we
would, you know, talk and that’s the way my as certainly
my aunts would, you know. I had a vision, you know. – Yeah, yeah. And I think there’s something
in, there’s a real truth in that in terms of, you
know, sort of the intimacy of speaking of that
you’re able to bring forth about African American
and black communities, that often isn’t spoken about. And that relationship between spirituality is very apparent in many of our lives. Which is why I think it might if… I’ll talk a little bit
about who you’re speaking to when you’re making your films, but it feels like a very
direct conversation happening, I think, to black audiences. Personally, I feel like that. The other thing I think is
extraordinary about Harriet is yes, of course she’s a hero. She’s amazing. Cynthia’s perfect, Harriet’s amazing. But to me when I walked away I thought, why has this film touched me so much? It’s because actually the hero of the film is the whole community, and it’s because she loves them so much. She does this act out of love. And I was saying to you earlier that watching all of your
films, that’s what I’d realised. Each of your characters
are motivated by love. Which often isn’t the case in lots of black dramatic
storytelling, it’s often trauma. Is that something you’re conscious of, or? – I can’t say that I was
conscious of it, I mentioned it. But I love love stories
I do kind of look at even things that might not
be necessarily apparent as a love story, like Talk to Me. You know, like, it’s a
well it’s a love story. It’s like, you know, two guys and it’s platonic but it’s a love story. The way the great friendships,
love stories, and. But no I didn’t really think about it. You know, people ask me a lot what do think is unifying
in, in my movies. And I never I never quite
have an answer, but now I do. – You’ve got it, it’s black
love, it’s black love. You do it very well. Okay, so we can, just to prove the point we’re gonna skip on to
your next, another film. So working backwards, so Black Nativity. It’s interesting the BFI are about to launch its musical season.
– Right. And when I was working here, I was like, why haven’t there been more black musicals given the fact that we
are the song and dance? – Right. – Right, strain and the visual aesthetic. Well, you went there in this one. So let’s show a clip from Black Nativity, then we’ll get into it. (audience applause) I mean, taking on a
musical is a, it’s a thing. It’s a whole nother component, just not just telling the story. And this was a stage
play first, wasn’t it? Tell us about why you wanted
to bring it to the screen. – I get approached by a producer who said, would you ever do a movie
version of Black Nativity? And I was like, yeah. – Was it a famous play? Was it a fairly famous play? – Yeah, it’s a it’s a famous
play Langston Hughes wrote it, it’s very slender so it’s
very open to interpretation. My mother took me every
year when I was a kid. Boston was a major venue for it. And so once we moved to
Boston at Christmas time, you know, people do churches and theatre groups
would do Black Nativity. And so my mother took
me to see it every year. And, but it’s very, very slender. It’s really just spectacle. And so I had to kind of
write a context for it. – Okay. Also what I thought was interesting. Again, watching one of your films is that there is a
theatricality to your work. You often use dancers and
movement and artists in your work. Is that something that you’re again, something that you’re
conscious of, that excites you or something about crossing those mediums? – I guess it does, I don’t. I haven’t analysed it, you know, like. I was a dancer, I danced for a while. I love theatre, but I haven’t really, you know, I haven’t
really thought about it. Certainly with this
there was a theatricality that I thought was you know was necessary. – Yes. And again you’ve got all
star cast Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Jennifer
Hudson, it goes on and goes on. People like to work with you. – Yes.
– It seems. Why is that? How do you go about doing your casting and you know what’s, what do you think? Why is it easy for you to get these amazing people for your films? – I think having worked with a lot of with black cast a lot, you know. And just being one of those directors. You know, at this point, yeah. People are every time
I meet with an actor, they’re like you’re
going through your phase where you’re working with me now. They’re trying to hypnotise me into. But no, I think that, I’ve been very, very, very, very lucky. – Do you think you obviously
started as an actor? Along, I mean, you did, you
know, racked up lots of credits. Is that, in terms of the
elements of directing that you like, is that the
part that you like the most? This is a very leading question. But in terms of working
directly with the actors, is that a? Do you think that’s something…? – One would think the
answer would be yes, but no, it’s equally every aspect
of it is important. That’s probably my favourite. But I love all of it. I love (foreign word), I love
like, what frames look like and emotional photography and how to tell a story visually
and how to move through. I mean, I love screenwriting,
and I love how to move, how to put it on a page
and how to get it from the page to the screen and
I love everything about it. But yes, I love working with actors. – So talking of stellar cast
that’s come to talk to me next. I’d really, really if most
of you haven’t seen it another great slice of history. A true based on a true
story, true characters. Character called Peter
Green, who’s an ex con, DJ. And how he meets Julie
Hughes is a radio producer just at the kind of turning point in the civil rights movement. We’ll talk a bit about
it, we’ll roll the clip, and also sorry, Taraji P. We need to talk. Okay, let’s roll the clip.
– Especially after seeing… (audience applause) – Honestly. I’ve rewound that scene about three times. It is so delightful. Okay. So first of all, why hasn’t
Taraji P got an Oscar five? She’s just amazing. I think there’s something though. What I love about that is it shows the, the tone, the pace, the
energy of this film. But also what a great
ensemble cast can do. – Yeah. – You know, I think it’s it
is true, it’s how it is done. But without Taraji,
this film wouldn’t have that kind of energy and that bite. So tell us a bit about
coming to this film. It’s such a specific story. I’d never heard of Peter Green. It’s fascinating. So tell us a bit about
how this came about. I think, in some ways my, my kind of sneaky superpower
and why I’ve been able to work for so long as being a writer. So they approached me to,
to help with the script that the script was already quite good. But they wanted to work
on the female character. And so this was the one where, as I’m rewriting the script, you know, and I started playing Sly and
the Family Stone and kind of, you know, working on it. And then one day, I couldn’t breathe, and I called my agent I was like, I think I’ve got a direct
talk to me, you know. And he’s like, you’re nowhere
on their list you’re like, I mean, they’re not even thinking that. They’re going out to
Clint Eastwood, you know. And I’m like, okay, maybe I’ll pass and. And so I had to basically wait for every director to
to pass on the project. – I can’t imagine who
else could have done this. Yeah, can’t imagine. And again, like what you said before, this is very much about
love between two people. This time these two men, this filial love and also
love at this community. It’s a really interesting
how love plays out through this film. Where Peter Green is, how far he’s prepared to go. And how far is not when he’s
getting to leave his community. So I think that’s very interesting. But okay, tell me about Vernell? Is that her character’s name?
– Vernell, yeah. – So I wanted to talk
to you about this also. So it’s interesting, you
came on to rewrite her. And again, I think this is what you do for black women characters, particularly. It would be very easy to typecast her. She’s the tart with the heart offensively. Ex, you know, go go
dancer, blah, blah, blah. But its proper couple goals. I mean, the love between these two are and the way that she’s
allowed to be her full self. So tell us a bit about how
you approached writing. – Okay, so first of all,
this was a very good script and she was already a very
interesting character. I guess I, I tried to put feet on the ground. And that’s working with Taraji as well, you know, cause Taraji can
swing from the chandeliers and it’s like, okay, you know. She’s a real woman, you know? So we want to be this outrageous. People, Dewey’s reaction to Vernell
is the audience’s reaction in some ways, you know, where
he eventually kicks her out. He won’t allow her in the
radio station for a while. You want to, I wanted to take the audience to the edge of what they
could stand, you know. And then realise how much
you’re in love with her. – Yes. And she is the one that brings up love in this way, doesn’t she? She’s the one that says,
you know that you love him? You know, and it’s really interesting that she is the one who kind of… But yeah, it’s it’s a wonderful interplay between these,
these amazing actors. – It’s, you know, the
the part about directing that’s interesting is assuring because I remember, you know, it was scary role for her. And you know, she’s totally game. Like Taraji’s game. But the interesting
thing about directing is assuring actors that you have
their performance in your. You know, I remember saying to Taraji, I’ve got it in the palm of
my hand like, I’ve got you. I’ve got like, I know, we’re
going to do this together and it’s not going to be foolish, it’s going to be beautiful. But it’s got to be a little foolish. Before it can be beautiful. – Right. So there’s that trust. There’s a kind of trusted relationship that’s going on between you
and, you and the actors. – All the time. – Okay, so we’re going to
talk, come to your another film the earlier film to that which is called, interesting it’s two titles. We both got confused on this didn’t we. We think the UK title
is Sign of the Times, but it was made as Caveman’s Valentine. And it’s a different
kind of sensitivity here. And I think in a way it’s
a very brave, brave film. And brave a depiction of a character. so this is a character
where Samuel L Jackson plays character called Romulus
he lives in a cave. He’s schizophrenic and he’s turned sleuth in order really to reach out
to his daughter who’s a cop. So we’re going to show
the clip, the clip now. In this clip you’re going to see that he’s also a lapsed concert pianist, as well which is important
to note from the clip. So here, all I say is here he asks a rich man he’s met for a suit. Okay, if you roll the clip. (audience applause) Very, very particular story this. Tell me about, tell us
about how this came to be. – I have to go back to Eve’s Bayou. So I my first film I
made was Samuel Jackson. We’ll talk about that in a minute. But when I finished Eve’s
Bayou I really didn’t, I didn’t know that I had to do it again. Honestly, it was like I
dropped the mic I’m done. – Right, I was about to say. – Kasi was out, I had to rest
on this laurel for like ever. But Sam called me and said, you know, we’ve got this
book the Caveman’s Valentine and do you want to direct it? – So he so he.
– He approached me – Yeah that’s interesting. And it’s, it is brave because what I think is quite interesting
about this film is that this is a man who clearly
has mental health issues. But actually, this is not about, he is the hero of the film. And he, is not about him being
cured throughout this film. It’s about people accepting him for who he is throughout this film. That’s what’s kind of
really brave about it. The other great thing I think
is interesting about this film is how you depict the times he has the kind of mental health crisis moments. And again, this use of
dancers and the moths. So can you speak a bit
about your choice of how you chose to visualise those episodes? – Well in the book, you know, he has that he’s haunted by
the Chrysler Building, and their x rays and z
rays that he sees is evil. And so I had to I had to
visualise all those things. And then he has these
kind of moths seraphs dancing around in his brain. George Dawes Green wrote the book and, you know, it’s quite
wonderfully described. But you never quite know
what the moth seraphs, they’re like angels of destruction,
you know, in his brain. So I decided that these
were black men, dancers, and you know, that was fun. – Yeah, yeah, it’s really, again, watching all your
films, you see that, that kind of character. That black male dancer
character crop up a few times, so it’s kind of great to see
them on mass in this film. Now, there’s a line in
this film that I’ve got to ask you about, which
made me laugh out loud. But it also comes to a question around when you are thinking of audience, if you are ever thinking of audience, do you have an audience in mind? So the scene, I don’t
know if you remember this, but the scene is where it’s at one point he ends up sleeping with a white woman character in the film. He’s also being haunted
as we see by his ex wife, who’s a figment of his imagination. So there’s a quite surprising scene where they sort of seduce each other and they sleep together. And then he sort of waking up post-coital and the ex wife is there saying, white women will sleep with anybody. (laughing) And I had that reaction. Where I kind of go,
what should I have said, and you’re like really? And then that happens and
you burst out laughing. And I thought, so I’m
thinking of moments like that. Are you, are there ways and… I think there’s a very
direct address, I think, possibly to black women at that moment. I think there’s so there’s
a layer of understanding that we may bring to that line. – No I think it was it
was Sheila’s character. So I was thinking what would,
what does Sheila think? – Right. – What’s his, what does he
think in his imagination what’s his ex wife say? – Right, right.
– You know what I mean? And so it’s really like from her, from his, what’s he hearing? What’s the other voice that he’s hearing? – Yes. It’s a killer line. That’s a great line. And it does, it’s a kind
of a very intense moment and it’s a great- – I do believe I wrote that line. (laughing) – I think, I think you did. Okay, so now we’re going to
come to the mic drop film. Eve’s Bayou. How many people have seen? (audience applause) – Very good, yeah, very good. For those of you who haven’t, what I’m going to do is
play a very long clip. Because this film is is now
a bona fide modern classic. It’s been I don’t know what,
this is a big deal in America, but it’s now a part of
the Library of Congress. – Yeah it’s been inducted into the National Film Registry
of the Library of Congress. (audience applause) – So what I what I decided to do is I wanted to play the first
six minutes of the film. You’ll understand why
this is a master class. I’ve never seen a film,
that this is a complex film. It’s a very complex film. It’s an ensemble cast. It’s set in a very particular time in a very particular community. And I’ve never seen a film
that so perfectly sets up in a very short period
of time, what’s to come. So we’re going to roll
the first six minutes. And then so sit back and enjoy. And we’ll talk about that. (audience applause) This was your first film. It’s incomprehensible to think
about this as a first film. It is so perfectly rendered
and watching it 20 years later, as I did this week, it’s faultless. It’s set in a Southern Gothic tradition. It’s a perfect manifestation of that also, and you wrote this as well. So the writing of it is what
I think is quite incredible. So tell us about coming to the story. How did it originate
in the writing journey? – It originated in a very interesting way. I went in for an audition for a TV show. And I knew the casting director, and he said, yeah don’t read
the lines just tell me a story, maybe about your family. And I really wanted the
job, you know, so I’m like what’s an interesting
story about my family? So I started talking about my aunt, and how she was a psychic
counsellor and she, you know, married five times and I left there and as I went home, and I wrote down a story about my aunt. And then I wrote a story about two kids who go into their, a sick relatives room in the house that lives
upstairs in the house and very impressionistic. And I think I wrote a story about, that was based on my mother and
aunt going to fortuneteller. And I started writing these, and I wrote the story of the original Eve and Jean Paul Batiste. – Okay, yes. – And then I and then I kind
of brought Louis Batiste for these characters to revolve around. And and it kind of became
the first literary experiment cause I was really trying to write prose in a way that was poetic. And definitely based
on Southern literature, which I was a huge fan of. Toni Morrison and, and
Tennessee Williams and…. And also really informed
by Gabrielle Garcia Marquez and magic realism and all
those things that I loved. And I was trying to write
a certain type of way that the black people where
I was from the women, talk to children. That was very harsh, but
was wonderful, you know. Play games with me, I
swear I’ll slap you blind, like that kind of thing, you know. And, and to end that language
that it was like poetry to me. You know, it’s very beautiful to me. And, also there was a glamour, you know, to my parents and my family that I wanted to capture
cause I didn’t see it much, you know, in films at that time. And, they were very, like, they’re like movie stars, you know. They were very beautiful and
their friends are beautiful, and they had these
fabulous parties, you know. And so it was all those things, but it was almost a literary
experiment at first. – So it feels that way. It feels like an adaptation because every, like I said there’s many
characters in this film, but every single one of them
are completely realised. So I think, you know, really huge kudos in terms of being able to write that in quite a compact hour and
half to take you into that deep. I think the reason why
this also struck a chord with many of us is because there is so many expressions
of black womanhood and girlhood in this film. And again, so each of
them are 360 crafted. That in one film, I think
you’ve probably been able to quadruple the depictions of
black women up to that point, you know, just in this one movie. And was that something that was important for you at the time as well? Telling of the story. – It was but it wasn’t
what I was thinking, you know, I didn’t. It became a movement to me. But I wasn’t aware of
it when I first started, I was writing roles that I might want to play one day, honestly. So I was writing, I mean, when
I first wrote it, I was like, what’s the perfect role
that I would want to play? And I wrote Moselle and Moselle
was kind of like, you know, my Blanche DuBois. Like you know, what’s my
Blanche DuBois character? And it’s Moselle. Kind of based on my aunt and Roz is kind of based on my mother. And Eve is kind of based on me. And kind of based on Scout
in To Kill a Mockingbird, you know it’s very. And Sicily’s kind of based on my sister, you know and so it was a… It was like my family but it wasn’t. – Yes, yeah. – And then it became a movement as I, as the more I talked
about it and the more I, it became a movement in
a lot of ways for me. It became a very militant film for me. But it gradually became that
as I kind of discussed it and at the pushback against it. – As you were making it, it became- – As I was making it became militant. – Interesting. – I realised it was
militant, put it that way. – Because the pushback was? – Black people don’t act like this, black people don’t dress
like this, you know. – Interesting. – I’m like really, well. – And so.
– Just cause you don’t know. – And so the tell tell me about. So there’s pushback on making this film. Again, this is an all black cast? – Yeah, so that became very militant. – Yeah. – It was always an all black cast. – Yeah. – But the more people wanted me to put white characters
in it, to make it more… And people were, like, offended that nobody was talking about white people. – Right, right. – You know, and I’m like, no, black people don’t spend all their time
talking about white people. I’m sorry to break it to you. We just live life and you know,
have our own problems and. And so that became, so by
the time we made the film there are no white extras in Eve’s Bayou. – Yeah, I was thinking,
there’s nothing, yeah. – I was, you know, at that
point in my life, especially to now I mean, it really informed kind of, you know, who I am. The more pushback I got the more I was. – Yeah and pretty much since then most of your films don’t have many. I mean, there are kind of, I love the fact that
Martin Sheen gets a little, little looking. A little side order in Talk, but there’s not many other. I mean, yeah, I think there’s so much that is remarkable about this. And of course you have
got the cast of all casts. There is I mean, the
late great Diane Carol plays a phenomenal role. So this is your first film,
you’re going out to cast this. How easy was it then? – I did something that I you know, I was very lucky in my choices. That I decided to direct
the film after trying to, after shopping it for a while as a writer and not being able to attach a director. So I get a lot of work by you know, directors not wanting to do my scripts. And I made a short film as kind of like a like a little taste of that I can actually direct call Dr. Hugo. And Dr. Hugo’s little piece
of Eve’s Bayou almost where a doctor, a handsome doctor pays a house call to a married lady. And I have Bondi, my
husband play the role, and he was my boyfriend at the time. And Sam saw it. And Sam was a character,
Samuel L. Jackson was very much a character actor at the time. I think he just done Pulp Fiction. And he kind of wanted to
be a leading man, you know. And so with the script,
the script was very, the script was a thing. Like I took 100 meetings on that script. – Yes. And nobody had ever seen anything kind of like that, you know. They’re like, who is this person? – Yeah. – And I got called into
to meet a lot of people who didn’t want to make the
movie but wanted to meet me. – Right. – And Sam read the script
and saw my short film, and he wanted to play the sexy doctor. I mean, it was really like that is kind of a stroke of luck. – Right. – So he got attached and then we, we had this young girl
attached who we loved to play Eve, and she did a
bunch of table readings with us. And she was great. And she was beautiful. But the film took so long
to make that by the time we were ready to make the
film, she was a Sicily. And so it’s like, okay,
Megan, you play Sicily, we gotta find an Eve now. And so, and she Eve was
the hardest part to cast. So the rest of the cast had come together and Debbie had come in and
did this wonderful addition and Lynn came on board, and I still didn’t have an Eve you know. And I started to feel
like a fraud, you know. I started to, I had this film based on this kid that I hadn’t found. And and these kids would
come in and audition and they were precocious
and like horrible. I just like no, that’s
not her at all, you know? That’s not her at all. And I was having a hard time
articulating what it was. I said, no I want like
an earthy little girl. You know, I want an
earthy, you know, child. And then one day, I was in prep, you know. So it’s like fraudulent Lee got all these people down to Louisiana and you know I don’t have an Eve. And the casting director called me and said, I think I found Eve. And so I went back to Los Angeles. And Megan was in the room and Sam, they had both come for this audition, to audition this girl and Jurnee came in. And as soon as she started, we’re like, oh, that’s her, you know? And then I walked
outside to take a breath. And there’s her little brother
and I’m like, do you act? (laughing) – Two for the price of one. – You’re like get in
there with your sister and like improvise, and so I cast them both. And then later I cast Diane Carol. And so Diane Carol when I was
first talking to her about it, she said, well, who did
you get to play Eve? This is the way she talked. And I said, this young woman, this young girl Jurnee Smollett. And she said I know Jurnee. She said, she’s a spooky little girl. I said that’s the quality,
(audience laughing) that’s the quality I’m looking for, I wanted a spooky little girl. – Right.
– Yeah. – And she in the same, that you’re right. I mean, the film pivots on
her performance for sure. And she’s astonishing. It’s very, very hard to
find of kind of performance. I mean, again, I haven’t
seen it for a long time. I watched it last week, and I hands down, it’s probably one of
the best written films I’ve ever seen in my life.
– Thank you. – And I’ve seen a lot of films. Yeah, I think I think
that the masterpiece of writing and acting and
performance, it really is. You could have mic dropped
and gone and sun yourself on an island and we would
have all been very happy, but we’re very happy you
continued on through to Harriet. Okay, we’re going to open out so we’ve got some time for some
questions from the audience. So we’re going to open out. I started acting as a little kid. I got my first professional
job when I was nine. I was in a children’s theatre and there was an audition for
a role on a local TV series and I got cast. So my first my love of
like the whole thing started when I was a little kid. And then by the time I was, I went to NYU Tisch School of the Arts. And by the time I was
like, 17 I was in SAG and you know, doing commercials
and by the time I was 21, I definitely had an American Express card was self-supporting and
yeah, I started early is the answer. And I’m and my career took a very kind of lots of twists and turns that
I could not have predicted. The most interesting thing
I did for my acting career was, I was I played a lot of
cute people right you know. I had a very like baby
face and curly hair. But in I think 1983 I crashed an audition, an equity audition, for
a Steppenwolf production of a Balm in Gilead. Which was an amazing theatre piece directed by John Malkovich. And starring all these
amazing Steppenwolf actors and in that I played a drug crazed, violent lesbian. You know, and 27 people are on stage, a very wild production if you’ve ever, I mean it’s incredibly
weird and wonderful play. And that kind of changed
the perception of me and I became a cult actress,
which was wonderful. And so then I got to do a bunch of horror movies and interesting stuff. So I did on Vampires Kiss and Candyman and Silence of the Lambs
and so and on and on. And then at that point just
before Silence of the Lambs, I had a lot of free time like
a lot of actors, actresses, especially and black actresses,
especially especially. I went to film school. And I thought I was very
interested in the image, you know. Very interested in that language. And I went to film school
to study cinematography. And came out of film
school with a short film, that short film went on to festival. And Bill Cosby, hired me as writer. And I wrote a screenplay for him with two other playwrights,
with two playwrights. and that was like a wonderful
education in screenwriting, or beginning to tell stories like that. And then eventually,
after Silence of Lambs, I started being haunted by these stories about the Batiste’s and
eventually wrote Eve’s Bayou and then after not being
able to find a director decided I should direct it. So that’s kind of the way it went down. – I think we’re going
to have to rest there. But for those of us whose
appetite are absolutely whetted for this film, and we
can’t stress enough… It’s not just that it’s important, but it’s cathartic, it’s
a cathartic film I think. And more importantly I’d
like to thank you, Kasi for not just these works, but the works are going
to make in the future and for 22 years being in the game. So thank you very much. – Thank you.
(audience applause)

One thought on “KASI LEMMONS Screen Talk with Gaylene Gould | BFI London Film Festival 2019

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