This summer’s smash cinematic hit comes to us from a shatterer of glass ceilings.
Gina Prince-Bythewood’s newest film, a Netflix release of a comic-book adaptation called “The Old Guard,” is the hit of the summer — even with people steering clear of movie theaters as a global pandemic continues. And she accomplished that as the first Black woman to helm a major comic-book movie.
To be sure, this is far from Prince-Bythewood’s directorial debut — she was also leading the charge behind the camera for celebrated dramas like 2000’s “Love & Basketball,” 2008’s “The Secret Life of Bees” and 2014’s “Beyond the Lights.” But with this cinematic take on Greg Rucka’s written material, she has done something new — both for her, and for Hollywood.
It wasn’t easy. Women directors seeking to tell superhero stories “don’t get the assumption we can do it, so we have to prove we can,” Prince-Bythewood says. And she isn’t shy about calling out how “maddening” that lack of faith is. “When you get into the pitch meeting, you honestly have to be 10 times better than anyone who walked in before you,” she points out. “You have to be so overly prepared with the bigger, more thought-out pitch that you make yourself undeniable.”
But after seeing the successes of women-led superhero stories like DC’s “Wonder Woman,” and of Marvel’s “Black Panther,” which showcases Black comic-book characters, she recalls internally shifting from thinking she’d never be able to direct her own action film, to thinking: “I would love to do that. Why can’t I do that?”