‘The Hate U Give’, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘Widows’ On Telling Authentic & Empathic Stories – The Contenders LA

Fox came through Deadline’s annual Contenders LA event and brought along its films The Hate U Give, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Widows.

Based on the novel by Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give tells the tragic but familiar story of an unarmed Black man who is gunned down at the hands of an officer and the ripple effect it has on a young girl, Starr (Amandla Stenberg), who witnesses the murder, and her community.

“Unfortunately, this story has always been timely. It was timely 20 years ago, 10 years ago, and here we are today.”Sadly, it will probably be timely tomorrow,” said star Russell Hornsby, who was joined by Stenberg at the DGA theater. “The film’s intention is to bring about understanding which will bring about a sense of empathy, which brings about dialogue, which hopefully creates that groundswell that will get people on opposite sides to communicate.”

Adding to Hornsbys comments, Stenberg wanted to make it clear that the film’s message wasn’t anti-police, rather “it really is a reflection of reality.” She continued, “the point is, if you haven’t had these experiences, it is to empathize with [those who have].” In addition, said Stenberg, “it’s also a space to grieve, to mourn, to process. In the Black community, we don’t have the opportunity to think about these events in a way which we are emotionally taking care of our selves… as well as act as a tool for empathy, it’s supposed to be placed where we can convene, and cry, and release some feelings.

Stenberg ended the session with a statement that moved the audience. “As we continue to navigate this world, which continues to look scarier and scarier to navigate, we can have the tools in our tools box and love in our hearts to continue:”

Star Rami Malek and producer Graham King were on hand to represent the Freddie Mercury biopic, a 10-year feature in the making for King. “We made the film we wanted to make with some hurdles,” King quipped. Without directly addressing the controversy surrounding the film’s director Bryan Singer, King added, “I have to say going to work every day and watching [Malek] perform and having him driving this train every morning with that energy is what got us through everything.”

King made it known that Malek was the only person in mind for the part. “You could feel like the DNA of Rami was something that could turn into what we were looking for to play Freddie. He was the only guy we looked at.”

Malek, however, wasn’t as confident in embodying the role of Mercury. “I’m not a singer. I don’t play piano. I move in a very interesting way on the dance floor, I don’t know if I’d call it rhythm.”

“The thing about Freddie is I looked at him as this superhuman diety, this icon. I thought, how am I going to get anywhere close to being that,” shared Malek.

“I had to demystify him and bring him down to earth. I looked at someone I could relate to. I may be from Sherman Oaks but my parents came from Cairo. He’s an immigrant. To be out here on this stage, having this moment, and this weekend and all of this happening is something I don’t think any of our parents, his or mine, expected.”

Star Elizabeth Debicki talked about her immediate connection to her character in the Steve McQueen-directed heist film Widows. “When I first read Alice, I felt deep compassion for her. I’m half Polish. Alice is second generation Polish. More than that, I felt that the way she read on the page was incredibly authentic.

Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Cynthia Erivo star in this thriller about women who are forced to take their fate into their own hands and conspire to forge a future on their own terms.

“With these women, the film is about compassion and about female friendship and sisterhood,” said Debicki. Steve was very aware he was putting together four women who were so different from each other and had some much to learn and teach each other. He opened up this space for us to protected enough to be really honest…we took that into the film and tried to do it with these characters as well.”

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