Viola Davis Reveals Directing Ambitions at Chaplin Awards Gala
Viola Davis has already won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and two Tonys, and Monday night she became only the third person to have an EGOT and Film at Lincoln Center’s prestigious Chaplin Award, a feat only achieved by Mike Nichols and Audrey Hepburn.
At Monday’s Chaplin Award gala in New York, which Film at Lincoln Center president Lesli Klainberg said is meant to recognize Davis’ “whole career” and honor “someone whose career is still ahead of them as well,” the acclaimed actress and producer told The News84Media that what she really wants to do is direct.
“I feel like I have a director’s head,” Davis said. “I love tapping into [other actors’] potential. And I’m always watching movies saying, ‘If that beautiful actor had just done this, this and that…’”
For Jessica Chastain, one of Davis’ many A-list collaborators who came out to honor her, her The Help co-star can do “whatever she wants” going forward.
“I think she’s at a place right now where she can just choose what she feels like doing and what she’s excited about,” she told THR ahead of the event. “That’s what I hope for her. She’s an EGOT winner. She’s a best-selling author. She’s kind of conquered everything. She has the most incredible life, and I just hope for Viola, whatever she feels is her next journey that she gets to do it.”
Inside, Chastain, who also worked with Davis on The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby and learned “how funny” the much-lauded actress is, praised Davis’ pioneering career.
“When I see a movie like The Woman King, it has Viola’s fingerprints all over it. A movie like that with a female director and a cast of powerful Black female leads can get made in Hollywood today because of Viola’s lifelong advocacy for women of color,” Chastain said, before adding in reference to the critically acclaimed film’s notable shutout from this year’s Academy Awards, “maybe one day a movie like that can get nominated for an Oscar.”
The Woman King director Gina Prince-Bythewood, who opened up about the message she felt was sent by the film’s lack of Oscar recognition in a recent piece for THRindicated she was encouraged by the entertainment industry’s reception to her remarks.
“So many people, so many companies [have been] sharing the [piece]and that was the point,” Prince-Bythewood told THR Monday night. “It can’t just be me talking about it. I need to inspire others to talk about it and to make changes. So I hope that changes are going to happen within the Academy. But I don’t ever want to let that crowd The Woman King and the success that we had and the miracle that this movie got made.”
It’s Davis’ leadership by example that Klainberg said made Film at Lincoln Center want to recognize her with this year’s honor.
“She distinguishes herself by the way that she’s really blazed a trail and a singular presence in the film industry,” Klainberg said of Davis. “I think about her career. She’s been a real working actor for many years. She had small roles in films and wasn’t recognized probably in the ways she should have been because when you look back on these films where she just has a few scenes, it’s mesmerizing.”
Despite all of her acclaim, Davis said she was still in “shock” over being given an award previously received by Spike Lee, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Barbra Streisand, Tom Hanks, Jane Fonda, Meryl Streep and other Hollywood titans.
“That’s what awards do. You’re always like, ‘Me, little old me?’ And then you run with it before they take it away,” Davis told THR before the event of her surprise at being honored. “I’m a little nervous because I’m shy. I’m introverted. You have a lot of people talking about your career, your life, you’re watching life unfold onscreen, so I want to be present. I want to be able to take it in. And I want to feel like I deserved it. I spent too many years feeling like I didn’t deserve this. I want to really feel like I deserve it. So, I’m gearing up for it.”
Prince-Bythewood echoed Chastain and Davis’ “funny” and “shy” assessments of this year’s honoree.
“You think it’s Viola Davis, she’s just going to strut around, but she’s very shy but also incredibly funny,” she said.
Inside, Streep recalled Davis delivering a stellar performance, over and over again, in Doubt as the pair filmed the same scene multiple times.
Davis finally accepted her award after clips from her filmography and speeches from Chastain, Streep, Prince-Bythewood, Steve McQueen, George C. Wolfe and Jayme Lawson.
“I have an opinion or fantasy, whatever you want to name it, that every artist creates for the purpose to love,” Davis said in her speech, taking time out to poke fun at her nearby alma mater Juilliard by saying the acclaimed school ” kicked my fucking ass.”
“I mean, I love you, Juilliard, I do,” she said. “But man, I had a lot of Texas-sized margaritas before I went to a critique session.”
In closing, she said, “At the end of the day, we are here to love. And the love and the connection starts with self and then I’ll share it with you. And I share it with you because I love and that’s all there is.”
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