Loving: Press conference with Jeff Nichols, Joel Edgerton and Ruth NeggaCannes Film Festival 2016
The two stars of Jeff Nichols’s latest feature, Loving, laughed off suggestions that their performances and the film were destined for Oscar glory during a press conference ahead of the film’s première in Cannes. Joel Edgerton and relative newcomer Ruth Negga play Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple forced to leave the state of Virginia for Washington after a district judge threatens them with imprisonment. This eventually leads to the landmark Supreme Court decision that would declare opposition to interracial marriage unconstitutional.
Edgerton spoke about the experience of working from a real story to create the film: “It was very special because of how quiet and meditative and how simple things were. The guide to the film was the truth – what really happened.” Noting the role of Nichols, who both wrote and directed the film, which values restraint and solemnity over pomp and bombast, Edgerton continued: “Jeff had constructed a set of building blocks which led to the truth. Some may have rearranged the truth to make the film more Hollywood, with high-fiving in the courtroom or having a big party to celebrate.”
Negga, whose breakout performance is being touted by many as a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination, was equally full of praise for Nichols’s approach to the material: “Jeff’s screenplay is so lean; there was nothing really to add or take away. The great thing about Jeff is you just feel very free when you’re acting because you know he’ll calibrate everything. It’s the best experience I’ve had working with a director.”
Nichols’s film focuses less on courtroom theatrics and more on the tender, understated relationship between the aptly named couple. Nichols stated that this was a conscious choice: “Political ideas are not attached to people. I think it’s a waste of time. What people forget when they are so heated in debate is the people at the centre of this thing. I did not want to make a courtroom drama. I wanted to make a film about two people in love. This is one of the purest love stories in American history.” When Nichols’s wife heard about the project, threats (in jest, we assume) were made: “She said: ‘Listen, I really love you, but if you don’t make this movie I’m going to divorce you.’”
But Nichols explained how he was attracted to the “simplistic and pure” story, and how meeting the one surviving daughter strengthened his resolve to make the film: “The most terrifying part has been showing her the script, and showing her the film. She began to cry and said it was because they were all gone… I hope it represents the essence of these people.”
Though the lead actors played down their chances of Oscar success, Nichols staked his belief in the story and the picture: “This is the quiet film of the year. I hope it makes people think of what’s at the heart of these issues.” Negga, perhaps overstating things, concluded: “This is the most important film I’ve ever made, and it is one of the most important films in history I think. I’m sort of overwhelmed by everything. This is something super special.”
Photos: Laurent Emmanuel
Read our review of Loving here
Read more of our reviews and interviews from the festival here.
For further information about Cannes Film Festival 2016 visit here.