BAFTA hopeful Viola Davis 'in the driver's seat'
Viola Davis is tipped to win the BAFTA for best supporting actress this weekend for her role in Fences.
It’s the antithesis of the action movies that her co-star and director Denzel Washington is known for.
Based on a play by August Wilson, it is set almost entirely in the backyard of an “average” American family in the 1950s.
And yet, as well as awards recognition, it’s been a top-10 box office hit in the States, outselling even La La Land in many US theatres in its opening weekend.
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Davis told Sky News the film’s beauty is in the simplicity of the story told by the American Pulitzer Award-winning playwright Wilson.
“He told the stories of the average American man and saw the value in it … Those are the stories which chronicle where we were as African Americans.
“It’s those thousands and millions of the average black person who maybe weren’t educated, maybe didn’t know how to read. My father didn’t know how to read until he was 15. Those are the stories that let you know where we were.”
Paramount Pictures paid $ 1m for Wilson’s screenplay in 1987, planning to cast Eddie Murphy in the lead role, but it took 30 years to bring it to the big screen because of Wilson’s request that they use a black director.
Wilson died of liver cancer in 2005, aged 60, but his work remains timely. Indeed now, in the wake of Hollywood’s #OscarsSoWhite race row, its timing somehow makes this film resonate more.
Davis, who was also Oscar-nominated for The Doubt and The Help, accepts that after two years of all-white acting Oscar nominees, this year’s nominations are encouraging.
“It’s moving in the right direction. I think people of colour are refusing to put Hollywood in the driver’s seat … But my three biggest words are now what? Oscars will be over February 26th, and now what? What kind of films will be produced? What are their storylines?” she said.
But as one of three Oscar-nominated films with an entirely black cast this year, this simple story represents more than perhaps even its playwright could have imagined, more than a decade after his death.
Indeed Wilson could even win a posthumous Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay – one of four Oscar nods.
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Washington and Davis – who reprised their roles for the movie, having already starred in the 2010 stage play on Broadway – are also Oscar nominated. If he wins, it would be his third, although he missed out on a BAFTA nod.
Fences is released in the UK this weekend.