“We were giving it everything we had because we knew how important it was,” admits cinematographer Tami Reiker about working on “One Night in Miami,” which reflects on the social upheaval of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and presciently contemplates certain parallels to the current political and cultural landscape in America.
“There were moments where you were in that room on set and you could feel the hair on the back of your neck stand up. It was so powerful. Afterwards when [Regina] called cut, you hear a pin drop because everyone was frozen. As a person working on set, everyone really wanted to be there and wanted this to be the best it could be.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Reiker above.
“One Night in Miami” is Oscar and four-time Emmy-winning actress Regina King‘s big-screen directorial debut, adapted by writer Kemp Powers from his 2013 stage play of the same name. The film imagines what would have happened if boxer Cassius Clay a.k.a. Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree), singer Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), civil rights activist Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir) and football star Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) came together in a Miami hotel room after Clay defeated Sonny Liston in February of 1964. What transpires between these iconic men is a lively and timely discussion set against the backdrop of the tumultuous civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Reiker was pivotal in bringing this story to life for the big screen, which was all the more challenging on this project because the original play was purposely confined to a hotel room. “The most challenging aspect was the very long dialogue scenes,” she admits, referring to the long scenes of the movie set within the confines of a hotel room with four Black cultural giants. “Those 12, 15 pages of dialogue. Incredible, amazing dialogue, but just page after page without even a screen direction. That was the big tackle for Regina and I,” Reiker says, explaining how difficult it was to provide a more dynamic, organic and ultimately cinematic experience for the audience. “We really wanted to keep it alive and very immersive for the audience,” she says.
The Amazon Studios film has been a strong awards contender since it premiered at the Venice Film Festival over Labor Day weekend last year, where King made history as the first African-American female director invited to show a film there. Critics have praised her deft first-time turn at the helm and have gushed over its the performances of all four of its main cast, with Goree contending in the lead actor category alongside Ben-Adir and Hodge contending in supporting with Odom Jr. The film has so far racked up three Golden Globe nominations (for King, Odom Jr. in supporting and for original song “Speak Now”), Odom Jr. also has an individual SAG nomination, where the film’s cast is also in the running for Best Film Ensemble, and the film has six Critics Choice nods including for Best Picture.
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