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‘Beyond the Lights’ Premiere: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Gina Prince-Bythewood on Creating a Pop Star

Beyond the Lights Gina Prince-Bythewood Gugu
David Buchan/Getty Images

The stars turned out for the L.A. premiere of Relativity and BET Studios’ “Beyond the Lights” at the ArcLight Hollywood Wednesday, the latest film from “Love & Basketball” writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood, including Marlon Wayans, Andre Royo, Sanaa Lathan, the L.A. Lakers’ Steve Nash and others.

The film deals with the perils of stardom and the troubling objectification of female celebrities and pop stars, and Prince-Bythewood said she pulled out all the stops in order to create the air of authenticity around Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Noni and make her feel like a musical superstar. The film employed choreographer Laurieann Gibson, who has worked with Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj; hairstylist Kim Kimble, who works with Beyonce; and record producer The Dream, who has written songs for Rihanna, Beyonce, Jay-Z, Kanye West and many others.

The helmer even threw Mbatha-Raw and co-star Nate Parker some unexpected curveballs.

“Gina got us to do this sort of improvised rehearsal where we dressed in character and went on a date,” Mbatha-Raw said. “And she hijacked us with a group of paparazzi. … And they’re like hurling abuse at us and we end up going into the restaurant to take shelter, and the weirdest thing was that people in the restaurant started pulling out their phones, and being like, ‘Oh, who’s she? Should I know her?’ It was a complete surprise.”

Minnie Driver, who plays the mother of Mbatha-Raw’s character in the film, said her role allowed her to see the problems of celebrity from the perspective of a parent who’s manipulative and overbearing, but ultimately just wants to pull her and her child out of poverty.

“It’s interesting how we lose sight of good choices when you want fame, when you want money,” Driver said. “The term ‘stage mom’ has been around for ages, but the reality moms that we’ve seen these reality shows showing, and millions of people tune in to watch that, is sort of faintly abusive to me. But it’s really just about someone who doesn’t want to be poor anymore and will do anything to go back.”

The themes of the movie drive home an important message, but the soul of the movie lies with the relationship between Noni and Nate Parker’s police officer, who saves her life at the beginning of the film.

“It was always my goal to tell a love story,” Prince-Bythewood said.

While there is a thrill to being a pop superstar, Mbatha-Raw said it probably isn’t for her.

“Acting is definitely my thing,” she said.

And though Driver is an active musician who received her first record deal at 19, she had to wait another day to show off her pipes on screen.

“I’m a singer who never gets to sing in the musicals that she’s in,” Driver said. “One day that’ll change.”

After the premiere, the party continued across the street at Lure, with food, drinks and music.

Relativity opens “Beyond the Lights” on Nov. 14.