Based on the popular U.K. television series of the same name, created by Lynda La Plante, “Widows” is directed, co-written and produced by Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen, whose 12 Years a Slave won the 2013 Academy Award® for Best Picture.
When McQueen approached renowned screenwriter Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) to co-write the script, she says she jumped at the opportunity. “Steve McQueen called me, which was a great phone call to get out of the blue,” she recalls. “He knew I lived in Chicago, and he wanted to do a heist film starring four women, so I’m already in. Then it’s going to be shot in the town I live in and love, Chicago, which is such an underused town and such a cool town. And he wanted to use all the neighborhoods and really employ the city as its own character. And you just don’t see Chicago enough, the real Chicago in film. So, I was immediately, like, ‘Where do I sign up?’”
According to Flynn, the story offers a twist on the typical heist film in that each character that intersects comes from different ethnic, financial and social background. “My favorite part about heist films are when the team comes together. I love that,” she notes. “That’s one thing I wanted to keep about that heist feel, was that these women were coming together, not because one was a jewel thief, and one was a safe cracker, that type of thing, but because they just happen to all be connected by their husbands.”
The filmmakers assembled an impressive cast of actors for the film. McQueen says it was very important to make his cast feel comfortable and at-home, so to speak. “It’s very simple: they’re all great actors and you need to create an environment in which they feel safe to experiment and explore. That’s what I hope I provide actors, a safe space to fall on their faces, brush themselves off and try again in search of some kind of truth.”
Academy Award-winning actress Viola Davis says it’s a role that she never imagined she’d be asked to portray. “It’s a huge departure for me,” she exclaims. “I wouldn’t imagine myself being in this. First there’s a nice love scene in there. It’s kind of action-packed. I don’t know, I just didn’t see it. So, Steve McQueen literally coming to me and saying, “I do see you in this role,” was sort of exhilarating to me.”
In the film, Veronica is married to career criminal Harry Rawlins, played by Liam Neeson. When you first meet them, the couple have already been damaged by a tragic death. “They very much are bonded by grief,” she notes. “And then Harry dies in a heist accident… and she’s left with nothing, literally nothing. Nothing in terms of finances and nothing in terms of even emotional reserve. But she decides to live.”
She decides to live by finishing the heist Harry was supposed to commit. Step one: employ her crew, the widows of Harry’s cohorts in crime. “It just starts off with all of us being strangers,” Davis explains. “But the one familiar element is that all of our men died in this fire, and they were all thieves. That’s the only thing that binds us together. And, also the fact that we’re all broke and we need to survive now. We’re in survival mode. But other than that, we couldn’t be any more diametrically opposed.”
Rated R-16, “Widows” opens December 5 in cinemas nationwide from 20th Century Fox.