Widows: Channelling Lynda La Plante

September 12, 2018
At the Toronto International Film Festival, writer Gillian Flynn, co-writer/director Steve McQueen and composer Hans Zimmer discuss how a Lynda La Plante miniseries from the ‘80s became one of the most anticipated and contemporary films of 2018.

“It’s been a long-standing thing in my personal life, because I saw Widows on television in 1983,” says acclaimed filmmaker Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame, 12 Years a Slave). “It just spoke to me as a 13-year-old black boy in London, and these four women who were being judged by their appearance rather than their character. At that point, my compass was starting to be set in the direction that I didn’t think was my destination. That TV show gave me a connection to these women – that they can achieve. It’s been a personal journey. And it’s been 35 years. At 13, I had no idea I was going to be a filmmaker.”

The hair and fashion may be different, but McQueen is hoping that Widows in 2018 will have the same impact on audiences that it had on him as a youngster. To that end, he’s recruited bestselling novelist Gillian Flynn to help him adapt the story.

“I began with Lynda La Plante’s amazing series. Bow down to her,” says Gillian Flynn at the Toronto International Film Festival where Widows received a rapturous response, pointing to the likelihood of more Oscar glory for McQueen and co. “People have been asking me how I updated it, how I created it. She was pioneering way back when in the ‘80s, so I wanted to mention her personally, she is such a force of nature. Steve and I were blessed to start with these four amazing characters that she created.

“To get to play with these four female characters… how often do you get to see not one amazing and strong and conflicted and complicated female character, but four on screen?” she asks rhetorically. “They’re from different backgrounds, different races, different socio-economic classes, and to see them come together…

“And what was cool about putting them in a heist film is to get to see them work together and get to see their brains in action. That’s what I’ve always loved about heist films. Heist films are all about, how do you solve problems, how do you fight together, how do you argue together? And to get to see these women overcome these differences and come alive… these are women who have been broken and ruined by the male power structure in many ways… And to get to see them to rise to the challenge and to find their voices. And find these very different voices. That was what was so cool.”

Composer Hans Zimmer had worked with Steve McQueen on 12 Years a Slave, but that wasn’t the only connection that he had to this latest project. “Very early on in my life, I was the tea boy for the composer [Stanley Myers] on the original television series. So, I’ve actually gone through a version of this journey before. I come from a mother who was very strong and watching her fight impossible battles for her child. I remember at the time thinking how important this was, and how this television series was going to change the world, and things were going to get good and things were going to become fine and women were going to have a place and a voice. So, when Steve started talking to me about this, I realised that things had not gotten better, if anything they had gotten worse, more brutal and more fragmented. One thing that stuck with me that Steve asked was ‘are you in love?’ He was checking if I loved women. And I kept coming from that place. I want to ennoble, I wanted to show their strength. The tension part, we knew we had to do it. But I wanted to show a particular type of loneliness as well.”

Widows is in cinemas from November 22, 2018

Top photo credit: Kevin_Winter_WireImageGetty


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