The Old Guard director Gina Prince-Bythewood: Patty Jenkins ‘creaked the door open’

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Netflix original action film, The Old Guard, is based on the graphic novels of the same name created by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez. It’s about a team of immortal mercenaries, led by Charlize Theron, and is jammed-packed with expertly choreographed action and fight scenes. I watched it three times over the weekend. Don’t judge me. The film has two female leads, one of whom is African-American actress Kiki Layne. Plus it’s directed by Gina Prince Bythewood (Love & Basketball), who is a woman of color. Hollywood directors are notoriously male and white. It is almost impossible for women, especially women of color, to be given an opportunity to direct a big-budget film like this.

Patty Jenkins made headlines when it was announced that she was going to direct the much-anticipated Wonder Woman film in 2018. It was one of the highest-grossing films of that year and yet, in the height of Me Too, the Academy passed over her and nominated all men for the Best Director category. In the 91-year history of the Oscars, only five women have been nominated for Best Director. The pickings of women directors, especially women of color, are so slim that when director Ava Duvernay was snubbed for her work on Selma, she stated, “I’ve never been in this place before. There is no precedent for it and there is no black woman I can call and ask.”

Having Prince-Bythewood direct this film for Netflix is a moment. In fact, Skydance, the owner of the film rights, intentionally sought a female director. Prince Bythewood never expected that she would one day be asked to direct an action film. She did an interview with Variety in which she credited Patty Jenkins for helping open up opportunities. She also talked about the extreme training that the cast did.

On realizing her dream to make an action movie
“I, for a long while, never thought I’d get the opportunity to make one given the way Hollywood loves to work,” Prince-Bythewood, 51, tells Variety. “But then Patty Jenkins did ‘Wonder Woman’ and did such a phenomenal job that, that creaked the door open just a little bit.”

Prince-Bythewood explained that Skydance was intent on finding a female director when they bought the rights to the property. “They said in the room that they loved ‘Love & Basketball’ and loved ‘Beyond the Lights’ and loved what I did with the characters with that and they wanted that vibe for ‘The Old Guard’ so that it didn’t just feel like an action film, but more like an action drama,” she recalled. “And for me to move into the space, that’s exactly what I wanted as well.”

On Kiki Layne as Nile
“I was like, ‘Wow, she is really good, but no way could she be Nile. She’s just too soft,’” she said. “And then she came into audition and within five seconds, I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s Nile.’ She had that innate strength, but also the innate vulnerability and this innate goodness. KiKi in real life is a light and she brought that to the role and I believed her in every moment and she had the desire to be great.”

And Layne leaned in. The cast was in the gym for about four months working with personal trainers and stunt coordinators. “When you learn how to fight, when your body gets stronger and stronger, it gives you swagger. You’re now walking down the street, knowing you can kick someone’s ass,” Prince-Bythewood said. “It changes you and that helped her embody a Marine. You literally saw KiKi’s posture change.”

[From Variety]

When given the opportunity women directors are equipped to deliver and Prince-Bythewood has definitely proven that with this superb film. You could really tell that the cast had trained hard for this as she mentioned. Kiki especially was mesmerizing on screen.

As for the Old Guard, the cliffhanger at the end most definitely pointed to a sequel. This is the number one movie on Netflix and they’ll surely be happy to sink money into a second one. I’d like to also see where Prince-Bythewood takes Nile, Kiki’s character. The character had an amazing arc and Kiki was able to hold her own in scenes with Charlize and Chiwetel Ejiofor. I have a feeling I’ll be watching the movie again, a girl must practice her hand to hand combat skills. One never knows when you may find yourself being an immortal in a band of mercenaries or better yet when those skills may come in handy.

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photos credit: Getty and Aimee Spinks/Netflix

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40 Responses to “The Old Guard director Gina Prince-Bythewood: Patty Jenkins ‘creaked the door open’”

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  1. BlueSky says:

    I enjoyed this movie more than I thought and I will be watching it again! Kiki did a great job as Nile!!

    • josephine says:

      I thought Kiki Layne was amazing as well. She really draws the eye in any scene that she’s in. But I thought the entire cast was solid and it was nice to see some diversity (besides the two main characters being strong, compelling women, which was refreshing as hell, possibly the only kissing scene in the movie was between two men).

  2. Paperclip says:

    I really enjoyed this movie. Thanks for covering it!

  3. Chica1971 says:

    Love and Basketball..I”LL watch another film from that director.

    • Snappyfish says:

      So you might this funny BUT I loved ‘Love and Basketball’ so much that I never warmed to Gabrielle Union. Every time I saw her in something I would say “nope she was mean to Monica”

  4. Becks1 says:

    I hadn’t heard of this movie – we’ll definitely check it out this week! Weirdly, we’ve have trouble starting new series during the pandemic (you would think we would be able to knock out several series) – its like by the time the kids go to bed, our minds are kind of fried. So we can watch things that are short series (like Unsolved Mysteries) or that don’t require a lot of mental energy (like Space Force, ha) or we watch a lot of movies, so this looks perfect for that.

    I like her way of wording it – the door “creaked open”. It’s clear there’s still a door/barrier, there was no smashing of a glass ceiling, but it creaked open a bit.

    • bananapanda says:

      Also, Patty Jenkins was very cautious about signing on to Wonder Woman – she waited until the right people were involved and they agreed to her vision of Diana. She was willing to (and maybe did briefly) walk away from WW because it was going to be high visibility and she didn’t want to fail, knowing it would set her and other female directors back.

      • Esp.Lumiere says:

        That’s amazing. I didn’t know that. I really appreciate all these women setting the tone and standing tall.

        Loved this movie! Haven’t see many good movies or tv series lately, so this was refreshing. I was disappointed by all these luke-warm reviews. I enjoyed the fact that it wasn’t a mindless action movie. I enjoyed the pace and the build-up.

  5. Arb says:

    We watched this movie last night. It wanted to be the Highlander meets Unbreakable but lacked the originality of either. The acting was totally fine – everyone did their job – but the melodrama was unfortunate.

  6. Nikki says:

    I thought it was weird that I watched it twice.

    It was interesting to see two tall women in a movie together. A rarity in Hollywood.

  7. Joan Callamezzo says:

    The fight scenes were amazing, they drew from many different styles. Looking forward to the sequel.

  8. Sarah says:

    Ooh I need to watch this. I hadn’t heard of it at all, definitely one to check out. I haven’t been watching that much during lockdown as my attention just isn’t there but last week I watched three movies on three successive nights and loved it. One was the recent Ghostbusters re-boot and I enjoyed it more than I remembered from the first time I saw it. I wish they’d been able to do a second.

  9. Mia4s says:

    Such a fun movie ! I’m really happy it’s a success.

    And now I’m off to cry because I’m pretty sure no one will ever love me the way Joe loves Nicky. 😭😉

    • H says:

      I was just about to say this. The LGBTQ+ representation in The Old Guard is important too. Joe and Nicky are now my favorite couple in a movie, tying along side Han and Leia.

  10. Ninks says:

    This is not my type of film usually but I’m going to watch it on principle now.

  11. TheOriginalMia says:

    Okay, I thought I was being weird watching it multiple times. I really loved it.

    • duchess of hazard says:

      Same. I watched it three times! I might have to get me a sub to netflix when my roomie moves out.

  12. Case says:

    I’m not big into action movies so I was going to skip, but I’ll have to check it out now.

  13. Lulu says:

    I watched it last night and wasn’t so impressed to be honest. It started out strong then just got cheesier and a bit boring. I don’t know what happened exactly but the plot lines went downhill and the overall acting was like a 6/10 for me. Except for Charlize, she carried the whole movie. She was mesmerizing and memorable from start to finish, even when the material she was given wasn’t great.

    • Rani says:

      @Lulu, I agree with you. It’s watchable and all, but it was SO cheesy. I think this could have been a much, much better film. Charlize was mesmerising, as you say, and it’s always fun to watch her being a badass. I liked Kiki too, but the film really wasn’t very impressive.

    • Slowdown says:

      My husband decided to watch this because he couldn’t sleep and it seemed like an easy watch. It was so cheesy. I kept laughing at the dialogue. And I don’t understand these violent films with horrible, slow, voyeuristic fight scenes. Is this really all we can aspire to in action cinema? It’s so shockingly boring to me!
      But more power to the director. We should be allowed to be as good or as bad as any director with a penis.

    • A.Key says:

      Agreed. Without Charlize and her character the movie would have bombed really. Not the other actors’ fault, I thought they all did a good job, it’s just that they didn’t have much to work with apart from cool action sequences…

  14. Lucy2 says:

    I thought it was excellent, and I would like to watch it again too.
    I love that a woman directed this, and it’s extra awesome that she is a woman of color. I hope this really opens the door for her for a lot of opportunities. (If she were a white dude she’d be handed a huge franchise and $300 million right now).
    Kiki is great, and Charlize continues to be a badass action star.

  15. Jess says:

    I am obsessed with this movie! I love it and keep telling everyone to watch it. I would love both prequels and sequels!

  16. Cate says:

    Wow, loved this movie! I immediately wanted to watch it again. God love Netflix for that opportunity lol.

  17. Ariel says:

    Watched the movie with the boyfriend on Friday night (he enjoys the violence). Besides a microscopic irritation wherein- when you go to rescue 4 people who are tied down with enemies on their way to stop you- no need to wax poetic for 2 minutes before the untying. Pet peeve.
    But it was an enjoyable movie. And i would totally watch the sequel.
    Especially with action and humor, less melancholia.

  18. TyrantDestroyed says:

    I really liked this movie. It’s rare that I like an original Netflix movie and I watched it without any expectations and really enjoyed it and recommended to my friends right after. Looking forward for the sequel.

  19. Star says:

    I loved the movie. I cannot wait for a sequel. If I had one complaint, it would be the music. Other than that, it’s one of the best action movies I’ve seen in a long while.

  20. Kate says:

    Hubby and I watched this last night and enjoyed it more than we thought we would. I still prefer Atomic Blonde, though. I was OBSESSED with that movie for six months.

  21. marmalazed says:

    I watched it this weekend and immediately wanted to watch it again. The fight scenes were fantastic. I totally recommend this. Charlize carried it but the supporting cast was also really good. I hope they make a sequel.

  22. Grant says:

    I quite enjoyed this movie, although I don’t think that it was perfect. I would have loved to have seen more back-story between Joe & Nicky. As excited as I am to see a woman of color front an action franchise, I had issue with some of KiKi Layne’s acting. In my opinion, she didn’t have a lot of gravitas and seemed really wooden with a lot of her line delivery, especially in her scenes with Charlize. I feel about KiKi the same way I feel about Amber Heard as Mera in the Aquaman franchise; Like Amber, KiKi did a very good job with the physical aspects of her role, so maybe she can improve before the inevitable sequel (which I am definitely excited to watch).

  23. guilty pleasures says:

    I really enjoyed this movie. We stumbled on it as we were running out of things to while away the hours. I’m generally not a fan of fantastical fare, but this one grabbed me. Charlize and Kikki were great as leads, and the subtle love story between the handsome men was heart warming. I’m all in for the sequel!!!

  24. Sarah says:

    We just watched this and both really enjoyed it which is not too common! Enough of the supernatural type stuff for me and action/drama for my boyfriend. We both really want a follow up. The two women were outstanding.

  25. Marrria says:

    This is off-topic, but I thought Wonder Woman was a terrible movie. I watched it with my youngest niece, & I was appalled by all the outdated, terrible tropes; love at first sight, heavier-set woman as comic relief, putting your life on the line for some guy/gal you’ve known a short while (I don’t remember the timeline; I only watched it once). I was so excited to see it, because everyone was giving it rave reviews, & I really wanted to start my niece on strong female figures in live action films, but I was so disappointed in the plot. I honestly kept expecting a plot twist to blow things out of the water, but nope. Just drivel. I’m not trying to take anything away from the actors or the director, but I just don’t see the appeal of the plot. When people talk positively about it around me, I just nod & smile because I don’t want to be the a-hole in the room, but sheesh what movie was awful.

    Sorry for the rant, but I’ve been keeping that in for years now.

    • Slowsnow says:

      Many people have voiced their negative stance about the film in here after the first excited posts about it actually. You’re not alone! I fell asleep through it, and before that I was so annoyed by all the silly, antiquated clichés.

  26. A.Key says:

    I liked it but it’s not some mind-blowing life changing piece of art. It’s just a well-made fun action movie (I guess we forgot what those look like, since a decent action flick hasn’t been made since the 90s).
    Also with all due respect to Layne, she’s not the reason why the movie is as engrossing and fun to watch. She did a good job but the most interesting and fleshed-out character went to Charlize Theron (who basically carries this whole movie really). Without Andy the whole thing falls apart and there’s no one interesting to watch. I blame the scriptwriters and director for that though. The actors did all they could.

  27. lucy2 says:

    I loved Atomic Blonde. I hope she does another of those. I don’t think it did huge at the box office, but has picked up fans along the way.

  28. Grant says:

    Love me some CT and I LOVED 2 Days in the Valley… that cat-fight scene you mention is so epic! I think it was much more evenly matched than you recall though, Teri got some licks in herself.

  29. Grant says:

    And I only mention that they were evenly matched in that scene because, to me, it made the fight scene that much better and well-choreographed, a true testament to CT (and Teri) that early in her career.

  30. duchess of hazard says:

    @Lucy2 – Netflix bought the rights to Atomic Bomb, so I think Theron will be developing Atomic Bomb 2. Especially after The Old Guard did brisk business over the weekend.