‘Widows’ Director Steve McQueen on #OscarsSoWhite Progress: ‘We Haven’t Gone Far Enough’

It’s been two years since #OscarsSoWhite shook up Hollywood with the call for greater diversity in Hollywood, particularly at the Academy Awards.

“We are seeing an improvement,” Steve McQueen said at the Variety and AT&T Toronto International Film Festival party for his new action-thriller “Widows.” “We haven’t gone far enough, but hey, I hope we stick to the cause and get things done.”

McQueen was joined at the party, held at Momofuku, by his cast including Viola Davis (who appears on the current cover of Variety), Cynthia Erivo, Liam Neeson, Brian Tyree Henry, Elizabeth Debicki, Daniel Kaluuya, Robert Duvall and Michelle Rodriguez as well as co-screenwriter Gillian Flynn.

Variety co-editor-in-chief Claudia Eller praised Davis, who appears on the current cover of the magazine. “I think everyone in this room would agree that your talent is unsurpassed,” Eller said. “You’re a triple-threat. You’ve won Oscars, you’ve won Emmys, you’ve won Tonys. Everything you touch turns to gold. You’re an extraordinary talent.”

In fact, Davis is just one Grammy Award from an EGOT, but she noted it will be difficult “because you know I don’t sing.” Her husband, Julius Tennon, quickly suggested she could read “Peter and the Wolf” and win for spoken word album.

With so many memorable characters to her resume, Davis says it’s her character on “How To Get Away with Murder” that people most want to talk about. “Analise Keating,” she said. “And I think it’s because TV, I think it’s because it’s reached such a wide audience. I think because she’s so complicated and so flawed but at the same time I think she is very sympathetic and empathetic.”

Davis added, “After that, it’s ‘The Help.’ People love Aibileen.”

Erivo is also one award away from an EGOT, having won an Emmy, Tony and Grammy Award but surprisingly, “Widows” is her film debut. “This was the first movie I did,” she revealed. “And now, including the one I’m about to start shooting, I will be in five movies.”

Audiences won’t hear her singing voice in “Widows,” and that’s okay by Erivo. “I think that Steve wanted me to just do the thing I haven’t done yet, which was just straight-up act. Which I really actually appreciate. Because you’ll hear me singing a lot in other movies and other things. I think this is an opportunity to just show some acting chops, really.”

Duvall also had nothing but praise for McQueen, stating, “I don’t get along with directors. I loved working with this guy. One of my favorites of all time.” Duvall has directed films himself, including 1997’s “The Apostle,” but says he no longer wants to direct. “I’ve had it up to here. It’s hard to find a good project, hard to find money.”

Also hard to find are quality roles for women, and the stars of “Widows” recognized how unique it was to have a movie telling the stories of four powerful women. Though it’s been less than a year since the #TimesUp Movement took hold, Debicki says she’s hopeful for future scripts.

“I think that there have been massive improvements – much more to come – but I feel a shift, for certain,” she noted. “I think the thing that feels like it’s really opened up is the space for women to really speak about it to begin with  in a really transparent way and sort of jump faster to being able to ask what they want from the industry and not being at all shy about it.”

VARIETY PORTRAIT STUDIO AT TIFF

More Film

  • SAG Awards Placeholder

    SAG Awards: The Complete Winners List (Updating Live)

    Awards season is in full gear as actors take the spotlight on Sunday. The Screen Actors Guild Awards, recognizing the best film and television performances of the year, is just an hour away. Quentin Tarantino’s ode to old Hollywood, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”; Martin Scorsese’s mob epic “The Irishman”; and Jay Roach’s Fox [...]

  • SAG Awards Placeholder

    How to Watch 2020 SAG Awards Online

    The 26th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, honoring the top performers in film and television, is just a few hours away. Although the show is hostless, Joey King and Logan Browning are co-ambassadors of the ceremony, taking place on Sunday at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The ceremony will be broadcast live on TNT [...]

  • A Fall from Grace

    'A Fall from Grace': Film Review

    Why stay in your lane when you can veer into other roadways with your own turbo-charged vehicles? With “A Fall from Grace,” mogul Tyler Perry swerves back and forth between his usual woman-centered melodrama and a quasi-thriller. Shot over just five days in late 2019, As is his intriguing way, however, Perry delivers some grace [...]

  • 'Suppressed: The Fight to Vote' Review:

    'Suppressed: The Fight to Vote': Film Review

    In 2018, Stacey Abrams, having served in the Georgia House of Representatives for 10 years, ran as the Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia. She was the first African-American woman in the United States to be chosen as a gubernatorial nominee by one of the two major parties. Abrams had tremendous support, and after losing [...]

  • Mike Lowrey (WILL SMITH), Marcus Burnett

    Box Office: 'Bad Boys for Life' Crossing $100 Million Worldwide

    Sony’s “Bad Boys for Life,” the third entry in the Will Smith and Martin Lawrence-led action series, ruled over the global box office and is expected to cross the $100 million mark through the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. The threequel, directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, scored $38.6 million overseas, along [...]

  • The Case

    Bac Films Closes Deals on Psychological Thriller 'The Case'

    Bac Films has closed several deals on Bernard Stora’s “The Case,” a psychological thriller set in the South of France starring Niels Arestrup (“At Eternity’s Gate,” “A Prophet”). The film had its market premiere at the UniFrance Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in Paris, a five-day showcase of French movies wrapping on Jan. 20. Arestrup stars [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content