Nia DaCosta has been having quite a run over the past five years. From the critically-acclaimed short film Little Woods to the reimagined cult classic Candyman, this sister from Brooklyn, New York is now the first Black woman to direct a film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as she brings The Marvels to the big screen.
AllHipHop was in the cut like Neosporin at the Urbanworld Film Festival as DaCosta spoke of how fast the last five years have passed, the different mindsets that come with being an independent director compared to a big studio director and dealing with harsh criticism from fans of the MCU, one of the most rabid fanbases in pop cultural history.
“When you’re a filmmaker, it’s like you’re a freelancer,” she said. “You’re a hustler. You’re always like ‘Yes, yes, yes!’ You’re really grasping and grabbing at every opportunity. And I work all the time. That work ethic, plus great agents plus luck plus happening to be in the right place when projects I’m really interested in come up. That’s I went from Little Woods to this.”
“When I first heard about Candyman the studio was like, ‘Oh, we think Jordan [Peele] might direct it,’” she continued. “OK, cool. Let me know, I’m gonna do some other stuff while you figure that out. And then eventually I was on the list of people pitching for it.”
It was a similar situation for The Marvels. She continues, “And they chose me and the same thing for The Marvels. I had done Candyman, I had done Top Boy, and before these movies, there were other movies that I was going to do.
“For both Candyman and this movie, I had other movies I was going to do with them. Then I was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to have to do these movies instead. I’m a huge fan of Jordan Peele and the original Candyman, and I’ve been a fan of Marvel since I was 12 and saw Sam Rami’s Spider-Man in terms of films. So, yeah, great agent, work a lot and definitely being passionate about those things.”
For some directors, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a no-go zone, one that’s filled with too many moving parts and weighed down by big studio expectations. DaCosta told the gathering that gave her pause, albeit briefly.
“The Marvels was something I had to think about,” she admitted. “I didn’t think about in talking to a lot of my friends who’s in the universe, whether it’s actors or directors, because going from an independent studio where you are the creative center of the film…it’s like with my first film, I spent so much time trying to get that film made, it’s just so intensely yours. When you’re working on a studio project it’s completely different, even if it’s authored.”
She continued, “You’re combatting layers and there’s kind of more to work through, but you also get a lot more money and a lot more support. So, it’s like a give and take, and then it’s even more extreme you go into the Marvel Universe. Not just because it’s a bigger movie but the 33rd film within a universe. So, there was a so much negotiation, creatively.
“I knew this wasn’t going to be like Little Woods. I’m not going to be the person calling all the shots, but will I still have a good time? That was really important to me.”
Inevitably, there are going to be rabid critics of any Marvel movies. However, when combining the fact that it’s a film about three female superheroines, two of whom are women of color, and is helmed by Black woman director [DaCosta], disingenuous, gender-based critique kinda comes with territory.
“I was a fan of many fandoms when I was young like Marvel, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Sailor Moon. So, I’m very use to that energy. About fandom, as a fan, people want what they want. But that doesn’t have much to do with me. I just have to finish the movie. I have another film that I am making literally as soon as the strike is over. I try to focus on the work and not the response. It’s immensely healthier that way.”
She concluded, “But obviously this is a medium in which audience matters. It’s very important that they have fun. That’s why it was very important to me that this was fun, entertaining and also heartfelt. That’s what we aim for. And then the reaction and all that stuff, I try to keep myself separate from, because once you finished the film you kind of give it to the world and they what they make of it.”