Viola Davis and the movie that was “too black” for Hollywood

Viola Davis is the first and currently the only black actress to wear the so-called Triple crown of acting – a media term used as a compliment to representatives of the entertainment industry who have won each of the Oscar, Emmy and Tony awards.

With interest in Davis flaring when she’s already 42, and after only one scene in Doubt , the award-winning feat seems to fit Hollywood’s beloved template of “historical.”

By default, a success of this kind, a testament to her acrobatics as an actress, should mean that the industry will open its doors wide for her.

But when she starts looking for financing for her project “The Warrior Woman”, Davis realizes that statues and authoritative flattery in the press do not carry much weight in the eyes of investors.

“I call it The Struggle because it was difficult to find partners who shared the vision of our film and were willing to give us the green light. It was difficult to convince them that it would have any success at the box office. The film was too female, too black. There was no a precedent to ensure that they get back the money they invested. In the end, it was about money. Not about cultural impact, but about money,” said Viola Davis in an interview with the Guardian.

There were several aspects of The Warrior Woman that, according to Davis, said non-verbally that the investment in the film would amount to money down the drain.

Starting with the fact that the action heroes are women and the athletic male in the collective prefers to admire the peacocks in his yard than fight, and continued with the concept of a militant group that does not wear latex suits, make-up and not sexy in the conventional sense of comic book characters. Thus, the question “Who will want to see this film?” came to the fore before the producers.

From almost every angle, Maria Bello and Dana Stevens’ script about the Agoji tribe defending their kingdom of Dahomey on their own has left the impression of a niche project not worth spending more than $5 million on.

But Viola Davis believed that it was a story that needed to be told in the best possible way, visually and narratively, because the film had the potential to redefine the ready-made models of black women’s cinema. Images that Hollywood refracts mainly through the prism of housewives and victims of racial discrimination.

The actress has repeatedly clashed with these industry frameworks since her intense eight-minute scene in Doubts, where she plays the mother of a boy sexually molested by a priest. It’s the performance that sets the stage for the portrayal of the suffering parent, the routine character Davis has played on camera for years.

Photo: Getty Images

“Many times I have played the mother – a woman who, as soon as she takes a child in her arms, instinctively begins to take care of him. This was also the plan for my heroine in “Southerners”, who only vaguely gives the impression of a person defending civil rights. In she was once again the tormented mother at the core, and the maid on top of that. When I saw the film, I regretted being in it. I felt like I had betrayed myself and people like me,” the actress told The Hollywood Reporter.

Trying to break away from that stigma isn’t easy, but as her latest New York Times bestselling autobiography Finding Me makes clear, Viola Davis is someone who’s used to fighting for what she wants.

Growing up as the second of six children in an extremely poor family in Rhode Island, Davis learned from a very young age how to bypass complications in order to build the best life possible for herself. She manages to swallow racism, finds ways to forgive her parents for the environment of alcoholism, domestic violence and sexual harassment they create in her home.

And as a master at dealing with psychological trauma, Davis has found the funny side of living in a house full of rats, wetting yourself at night with fear, and going to school smelling of urine.

Viola Davis goes back to the beginning of her story

“My sisters have always been my platoon, so to speak. Our hometown was like a minefield where we were constantly trying to avoid smaller and larger explosions. But we always had each other. Also like the Agoji tribe from The Warrior Woman This is not a friendship based on walking, shopping and drinking [на коктейли]. It’s a spirit for which you are ready to go into battle out of love for each other,” says the actress.

In that regard, Davis didn’t understand why Hollywood said yes to movies about white women coming together, but was so backward in its thinking about the same kind of emancipation, but for black people.

Given that the need for a positive example can be seen in many places around the world, and after the great commercial success of “Black Panther”, for the actress, investing in “Woman Warrior” is not like betting on a lame horse.

After seven years of trying to convince others of her point of view, Sony got behind the film and gave Davis and director Gina Prince-Bythewood the necessary financing. And although she can’t promise a flow of money after the premiere, the actress is happy because she believes that with the role of Naniska, she has reached the culmination of her career.

At least she proved that, at 57, she can play an action heroine and break out of the on-screen rut of a motherly figure giving advice to younger people.

“What I can do is show people that dark-skinned women are more than the stereotype they make us out to be. We’re sexual, we’re desirable, we can be smart, and our identity isn’t defined by your worldview. I can do this. I can change the way black women are seen in the industry,” opined the actress.

Horror movies are obviously out of fashion


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