Here we go.
Right now, as we see conversations ranging from the essential to the ridiculous about diverse voices in film, there are a few key figures who are central to the discussion, and very few of them are being watched as closely as Ava DuVernay. I was flattened by her film Selma in 2014, and she's been a great steady clear voice in this ongoing debate about how best to knock down the conventional walls of who is or isn't “allowed” to tell Hollywood stories. One of the things that I've hoped as she's been circling projects is that whatever she chooses to direct next is something that broadens the definition of what a black woman can or can't do in our industry.
Intelligent Life sounds like an excellent choice.
To be fair, so does A Wrinkle In Time, a long-gestating adaptation of the Madeline L'Engele novel. That's set up at Disney and, according to the report by Borys Kit today, she could possibly do both films. Intelligent Life was written by Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, and it's set up at Amblin Entertainment, with Frank Marshall producing.
Even more exciting is the prospect of DuVernay directing Lupita Nyong'o in the film. Nyong'o has my favorite line in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (“I like that Wookiee”), and I like how completely she vanished into the character of Maz in the film. Sure, the actual onscreen portrayal is CGI, but it's more than that. Nyong'o gave Maz a wonderful sort of world-weariness as well as a big of the teasing mentor attitude that made Yoda such a great discovery in The Empire Strikes Back. I feel like we've barely seen what Nyong'o can do on film so far, and it's going to be exciting to see a filmmaker like DuVernay work with her on a film that does not sound like it would have been greenlit by a studio in this configuration even five years ago.
According to Kit, this is a reworking of a project about a UN worker who falls in love with a mysterious woman who has something to do with our first contact with alien life, with Nyong'o playing the woman. It's a simple enough logline, but I wouldn't expect something down-the-middle from this particular package.
Whatever Intelligent Life turns out to be, this feels like one of those turning point moments where a studio steps up and tries to be responsive to change, where the paradigm of who gets hired for what actually shifts, and I hope the film is a ton of fun if it comes together.