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10 Directors to Watch: With ‘One Night in Miami,’ Regina King Turned Historic Meeting Into Impactful Debut

Regina King 10 Directors to Watch
Courtesy of Tym Shutchai Buachar

It’s not often that a debut director leaps into the awards conversation. But Regina King, who won a supporting actress Oscar for 2019’s “If Beale Street Could Talk,” got voters talking by coordinating a quartet of strong performances in a timely and entertaining period piece.

Directing Kemp Powers’ play adaptation “One Night in Miami” brought star power to an embattled fall festival season, landing high-profile slots at the Venice, Toronto, Zurich and London film festivals, catapulting the film and the helmer into the awards race, earning the ensemble a SAG nomination.

“It is not lost on me that the respect that I’ve garnered as an actor definitely carried over as a director,” King said in Variety’s Directors on Directors discussion. “And I know a lot of young directors or women directors who don’t have that walking in.”

“One Night in Miami” is set on the evening that Cassius Clay became world heavyweight champion. He celebrates after the match with Malcolm X, singer Sam Cooke and NFL great Jim Brown. King calls the film “a bromance.”

Some of the discussions on racial justice would be familiar to today’s viewers, but King says of the back and forth between Cooke and Malcolm, “They both have visions of racial equality and equity, but their ideals on how to achieve that differ. It is very clear to me that both ideals are necessary to obtain that goal. The discussions between Malcolm and Sam were happening before anyone knew about a Malcolm X or a Sam Cooke. So for Black people the moment is always now, regardless of what year the conversation is taking place.”

Although the pandemic played havoc with the production and distribution of her film, which is streaming on Amazon Prime, King says, “With all of the devastation we are in the midst of, I believe we are at a precipice. We felt strongly that if this film can have a positive impact on anyone at this juncture, we should get it out there.”

Agency: ICM Partners
Management: John Carrabino Management
Legal: Gang, Tyre, Ramer, Brown & Passman