Steve McQueen (‘Widows’ director) on using a heist movie to explore ‘politics, policing, religion’ and more [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

Steve McQueen was just 13 years old when he saw the show “Widows,” a BBC limited series about a group of women forced to pull off a heist when their criminal husbands die in a botched robbery. “I was just hooked to the screen by these four women who had to overcome these huge obstacles,” he recalls. “In that environment they’re being judged on their appearance and being deemed not capable. I identified with those women very much as a child being judged in the same way.” Watch our exclusive video interview with McQueen above.

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McQueen’s obsession with the series endured for 35 years, leading to his big screen adaptation co-written by Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl,” “Sharp Objects“) and starring Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Jacki Weaver and Carrie Coon, among many others.

To make the story his own, McQueen moved the action from London to Chicago to set the story “in a heightened, contemporary city” that would “encapsulate what was going on all over the world in some ways … So many things are happening in that city as far as politics, corruption, economics, policing, religion,” not to mention race and gender.

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He was excited to explore these weighty themes in an unabashedly pulpy genre flick. “The heist movie is a construct,” he explains, “and constructs are there to be broken.” So instead of making something we’ve seen “time and time again,” McQueen wanted to use the caper formula “as a catalyst to talk about so many other things.”

With “12 Years a Slave” (2013), McQueen became the first black filmmaker to direct and produce an Academy Award winner for Best Picture (Barry Jenkins became the second in 2016 with “Moonlight”). That film also brought him Oscar, DGA, BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Critics’ Choice nominations for Best Director. His other two films, “Hunger” (2008) and “Shame” (2011), both earned him BAFTA noms for Best British Film, and “Hunger” won the Carl Foreman Award for Most Promising Newcomer.

“Widows” opens in theaters on November 16.

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