‘Selma’ Cast, Director Wear ‘I Can’t Breathe’ Shirts at N.Y. Premiere

Eric Garner Selma premiere protest I
Ray Tamarra/GC Images

Parties and protests don’t typically overlap, but the “Selma” cast made an exception and a statement on Sunday night following the film’s Manhattan premiere. At one point during the otherwise splashy festivities, director Ava DuVernay took to the steps of the New York Public Library with actors David Oyelowo, E. Roger Mitchell, Wendell Pierce, Omar DorseyJohn Lavelle, Stephan James, Kent Faulcon, Lorraine Toussaint, Andre Holland, Tessa Thompson and Colman Domingo, donning “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts over their partywear and raising their arms in the “don’t shoot” pose.

It was not just an unusually sobering photo op, but also a direct acknowledgment of the eerie timing of Paramount’s civil rights drama, with its scenes of organized protest and its urgent plea for justice and reform. The premiere was held the same weekend that more than 25,000 men and women marched through Manhattan, in the largest protest the city has seen since a grand jury decided not to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner.

The picture’s timeliness is undeniable, said Toussaint, who plays the civil rights activist Amelia Boynton. “There are no accidents,” she said. “I’m so proud to be a part of this film, and I’m so proud of Ava’s accomplishment. To bear witness to the fact that this voice is being heard at this moment … it speaks to the times and the needs of this time, too.”

Introducing the screening, along with Oyelowo and producers Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, DuVernay noted that the last time she had set foot in the historic Ziegfeld Theater, it was in her capacity as a publicist. That was back in 2006, at the New York premiere of “Dreamgirls.”

“I was on that film for a year,” DuVernay recalled at the afterparty. “I remember what Jennifer Hudson wore. I remember what Beyonce wore. It was a madhouse of A-list celebrities, and I walked that same carpet.” Is it better walking it as a filmmaker rather than a flack? “A little better, a little better. I’ve got better gear on than that black suit.”

Fortunately for actor Alessandro Nivola, the premiere was held on his one night off from “The Elephant Man,” the Broadway play in which he’s currently starring alongside Bradley Cooper. Nivola had to dash over to the Ziegfeld from the matinee, just in time for the film’s 6 p.m. screening.

“I would’ve walked offstage a little early to get to the red carpet if it had meant that I was going to miss it (otherwise),” Nivola said.

He noted that it was a treat to work again with Oyelowo, with whom he also appeared in “Who Do You Love” and the upcoming “A Most Violent Year.” “He was particularly inspired in this particular role by his faith. Whether or not you believe in God, when you see somebody who feels that drive in him in a performance, it’s a pretty powerful thing.”

Also in attendance were Paramount chairman-CEO Brad Grey, Viacom president-CEO Philippe Dauman, James Schamus and Harvey Weinstein, as well as “Selma” actors Carmen Ejogo, Common, Tim Roth and Tom Wilkinson. Paramount will roll the film out on Christmas Day in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Washington, D.C., followed by a wide release on Jan. 9.

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  1. nrob says:

    Or, what if the shirt said stop the Big Gov. from making loose cigarettes illegal? And stop making cops enforce these stupid laws

  2. amy says:

    I can cross this movie off my to see list.

  3. Booker says:

    Bóg wiedział, że Izrael widzi na co idą jego podatki.

  4. Sal U. Lloyd says:

    Good. Shame the coppers and the enabling DA.

  5. Julienne says:

    The shirt should read “I will not resist arrest.” He’d still be alive if he did what the Officers and their Black Sergeant Unit Officer, asked him to do.

    • Amanda says:

      What part of strangling an unarmed man to death who just broke up a fight is “criminal justice”? It may not be your experience, but other people do in fact encounter racism that precludes them from trusting the police. And if you don’t believe it, what’s more likely: everybody’s lying or you’re biased? It only takes a glance at history to understand.

      • DJ says:

        They held him in a choke hold PRECISELY because he was resisting arrest. In fact, he had been arrested multiple times for selling loosies. And it was the BLACK shop owners that called the police and complained about him because he was hurting their LEGAL businesses! If you want to cast blame, cast it upon the moron DimocRAT nanny-state Marxist mayor who created the exorbitant taxes on cigarettes to begin with!

  6. Manny says:


  7. Ooooh, they’re so brave. Give me a break.

  8. Greg says:

    Consider this a preview of what the Oscars are going to look like next year.

  9. Jason says:

    We’ll cross this garbage off the list. Self rightous , feeble minded people. So you don’t need the cops anymore? Okkkkkk. Hope you all get robbed N beaten

  10. TOM says:

    Now I’m definitely not going to see this movie.

    • Sal U. Lloyd says:

      You hate history, Tom?

    • Biko Django says:

      Oh, you’re not going to see the movie now your white power sensibilities have been insulted? Selma’s success is really going to suffer because of your irrelevant contributions. Do yourself a favor – after the Klan rally and Tea Party soiree, why not march to Foxx headquarters and demand justice by how uncomfortable it is to see black people bring light to the evil you enjoy so much.

  11. Gee Zinger says:

    Michael Anthony comments are accurate and excellent. Two white businesses owners were murdered by black robbers which resulted in nothing more than a news story. How about the you g white girl from Burr Ridge? A black broke into their home and murdered her. Where is the outrage by blacks for destroying their lives and their race? People see through the hypocrisy and don’t buy into these riots as any stand for true justice for all.
    when will we see these over paid actors and show biz people wearing tee shirts with Bill Cosby’s image with writing underneath. Rape is Evil, Degrading and Punishable!

    • Zed 0 says:

      False equivalence. The murderers are not police officers who swore an oath, and they got due process and were found guilty. Bill Cosby is a whole other matter, and nobodys on his side. Use your brain for something other than keeping your pillow warm.

  12. Michael Anthony says:

    Yes, there are some serious issues with some police. But, unless you as an individual satvthru the entire grand jury process and exhibits, you can’t really pass judgement. Especially in the Ferguson case. I haven’t heard one comment if concern for the shop owner Brown pushed around before Hus encounter with police. And how do the protestors reconcile the black witnesses who back up the policeman’s account? Its as if you discount anything that doesn’t square with the legend. A legend that may not be true. Garner us more difficult, but there are 4 films of the event. The public has seen one.
    While these protests continue, black on black crime continues. While protestors spent hours on Michigan Avenue in Chicago this weekend, a 16 year old boy was killed for his jacket by other young black men. One of hundreds every year in Chicago. Protestors? Never. Yet they continued to sanctify Brown, who by a preponderance of evidence was the aggressor. By

    • zed0rpheus says:

      Did those young black men get off? Were they cops?

    • Biko Django says:

      Oh Gee Zinger and Michael Anthony; you are just typical, ignorant buffoons who can only see value in white exception and foolishness, No matter the scenario, no matter the circumstance, the evil that has infected America for decades by white ‘policemen’ which is really nothing more than good old Jim Crow Nazism can of course be excused because ‘Blacks kill Blacks’, as if ‘White don’t kill Whites’ at unquantifiably more disturbing rates. Please refer your sentiments to any member of this exponentially increasing protest movement that will add to the progress made by the epoch defining protests of the 60’s. An epoch defining moment in America that has allowed you to sneer and denigrate your fellow black and brown brethren, while you champion racist misconduct by public servants who are supposed to protect us all. Get going. Meet one of these protesters, beautiful human beings – black, white, yellow and brown, who will shape the future of this country for the better. Oh, of course you don’t know any. You’re comforted by the fact that racist white subjugation will remain imperious in our justice system and media for an eternity. God Bless America! Bravo Ava Duvernay! Bravo David Oyelowo!

  13. 2slick4u says:

    I really feel sorry for what happened to Eric Garner. And I hope and that justice prevails in favor of the late Mr.Garner. But come on, these “I can’t breathe” T-Shirts and other clothing is starting to get a little rusty now. It’s really not going to prove or change anything. It’s time to move on.

    • zed0rpheus says:

      Some people don’t have the option to “move on.” But you can feel free to, go ahead and live in your insulated world. Just don’t make comments about it, if you want to move on so much.

      • 2slick4u says:

        zedOrpheus, I’ll make any comments that I see fit OK zeddy? Next,they can move on if they wish too. Let’s start with getting a good education thank you..

      • zed0rpheus says:

        It’s obvious that you’ll make any comment that you see fit, no matter how unfit the rest of the logical world know them to be. The price of freedom of speech is that people are free to make complete asses of themselves, case in point, you. As far as your brilliantly constructed sentence: “Let’s start with getting a good education thank you..” LOL … you first, Professor.

    • Biko Django says:

      Ha-ha! Hee-hee! Um…’2Slick4U’?! What a name! What an insightful comment! Um…you’re an idiot. You don’t care about Eric Garner and his family. You don’t care about any of the multitude of injustices that are poised to decimate the black male specifically. If you did, then an identifier of the protests such as the amazingly brilliant ‘I Can’t Breathe’ T-shirts would compel you scream ‘I’ve had up to here with these racist Nazi cops and I can’t take it anymore!’ But no it’s getting ‘rusty’. You just want to move on with you’re lily white life, protected by this racist evil, while blacks are executed second after second. You’re symptomatic of a systemic white privilege that views black loss and heartache as irrelevant and insignificant. You are the problem. Vote Duvernay! Vote Oyelowo!

      • 2slick4u says:

        Hey zeddyO!! You think that you’re funny by mentioning my “brilliantly constructed sentence” I see here already that you’re not to bright, AT ALL! OK you frickin’ genius. You tell me why some of these aholes can’t move on. What’s holding their dumb a$ses back. It sounds like you might be one of them. And I don’t what to hear any of your rehashed garbage excuses.

      • 2slick4u says:

        Biko, I know by reading your crappy comment, that you’re still living in your own little bubble. Yes, young black men are shot by white cops that I DO believe some of them are racist. But when a white cop stops or approaches a black youth or man the odds already are stacked in the person that the cops stop. So if that person JUST OBEYS what the cop is asking, JUST DO WHAT THE COP ASKS. Don’t give that cop any reason to take that person down. I’m sure in SOME of these cases,that’s not always the case, if you know what I mean. If not, you’re dumber than stupid comment you posted.

  14. Sal U. Lloyd says:

    Um, the part that says police state.

  15. Julienne says:

    Sounds like you’re fairly racist there Biko. Simple question. What part of “You’re under arrest,” don’t you understand?

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