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After the Oscar: Filmmakers Who Could Have a Director-Muse Relationship With Lupita Nyong’o

After the Oscar: Filmmakers Who Could Have a Director-Muse Relationship With Lupita Nyong'o

For months, there’s been buzz about Lupita Nyong’o’s talent, her style, and
the desire for her to have a lengthy career beyond her breakout role in 12
Years A Slave
. Now that she’s won the Academy Award for Best Supporting
Actress, the big question is what she’s going to do next.

No doubt, like director Steve McQueen, she
must have several offers on the table after last night’s win. But what I’d love
to see is for Nyong’o to become a muse to
someone, to develop a longstanding relationship with a director on a series of
projects that solidify both their careers.

Actors and directors form these kinds of bonds
all the time, which tend to be mutually beneficial, meaning more and higher
profile work for both parties. Consider Robert
De Niro
and Martin Scorcese, Jennifer Lawrence and David O. Russell, Catherine
 and Nicole Holofcener, Michael Fassbender and Steve

But whether it’s due to a lack of power or a
lack of interest, black actors and creatives rarely show that kind of
allegiance to each other. Outside of the Spike
Lee/Denzel Washington
relationship that lasted for many years and films, I
can’t recall one as solid.

Given the lack of opportunities for black
actresses in general, it seems Nyong’o would fare best with someone who knows
how to use her aesthetically, and who’s consistently making work in which she
can shine. Here’s a look at a few directors that may fit the bill.


An obvious choice after working with Nyong’o
on 12 Years A Slave. So far, the two
have had nothing but high praise for each other, with Nyong’o calling her
experience with 12 Years, “the joy of my life.”

Still, McQueen has made it pretty clear that
he’s already found a muse in Michael Fassbender, who has starred in all three
of his features. Whether he’s interested in making a woman-led film, or
possibly several starring Nyong’o, remains to be seen.


Besides 12
, Amma Asante’s Belle was another buzzed-about
period piece with a black protagonist, by a black director, to premiere at the
2013 Toronto Film Festival. Starring Gugu
as a mixed race aristocrat, the film will be released by Fox Searchlight this spring.

Asante, who won the BAFTA for her 2004 debut,
Way of Life
, is a triple threat in film as Nyong’o, and began her
career as an actor before going on to write and direct.


In the realm of black women’s voices,
DuVernay has a style and sensibility that could work well for Nyong’o. The
Sundance-winning director has been on a hot streak lately, directing an episode
of soapy ABC drama Scandal
and boarding MLK biopic Selma with Paramount Pictures and exec producer Oprah Winfrey.

Her sophomore film, the smoldering Middle
of Nowhere
, especially comes
across as the kind of drama that Nyong’o describes as her “sweet spot.”


In his films Restless City and
Mother of George
, Dosunmu worked with cinematographer Bradford Young to create dazzling
images of black bodies and emotion on screen. Their treatment of dark skin, natural
hair and bold colors could pair stunningly with Nyongo’s look and talent. Up
next Dosunmu, whose background is in photography, is set to bring his skills to
Focus Features’ Fela Kuti biopic.

A Nigerian native, Dosunmu’s also shown a
commitment to exploring the African experience in the U.S., which could make
for a great collaboration with Kenyan-raised Nyong’o. Of all the possible
options for Nyong’o, a teaming with Dosunmu and Young is the one I’d be most
excited about.

directors or projects would you like to see Lupita Nyong’o take on, now
that she’s won the Oscar?

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Her production company has bought the rights to the book americanah as well as staring in the leading role so looks like lupita is doing it for herself!


plus ça change…

I know I will get flack for this comment and it is not central to this discussion but I couldn't help but feel dismay I always feel when I see successful black men with their white partners. Steve McQueen and Chewitel Ejiofor made me feel as though all of this is just an intellectual exercise. Talking black sleeping white as they say.


An obvious pairing that has not been mentioned is with Forest Whitaker. He's done very well with female-led stories. Another would be Julie Dash.

I also agree that Ava DuVernay might have a good pairing with Nyong'o. I don't agree with Moulin's comments here. I never felt distracted by her directing in I WILL FOLLOW or MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. If anything, she shows tremendous restraint.

Nadine Patterson

I think all of the directors mentioned above would be great collaborators for Ms. Nyong'o. As Cade says, the chemistry between an actor and a director cannot be planned. And if it does happen, then it has to be nurtured continuously. It's like falling in love. Once it happens, then you have to do the day to day work of maintaining the relationship. It's not easy, but if the director and the actor can put their ego's aside, it is well worth it!


Amma Asante definitely. Not Ava or Andrew. Lupita needs to continue doing films that allow her shine, allows the film to also shine. I like Ava but her films seem to glory herself more than the film itself. Its hard to see the film, you only see Ava. Like Oprah, she overshadows her product. In Andrew, you only see the cinematography. Lupita needs a storyteller the Alfonso Cuarons, Spielberg, Lee Daniels. Lord give her Avatar. It will be great if she stars African women stories. That brings to mind the lady who used Kimberly Elise in Africa. The film was a bit amateurish, very good and intense storytelling, but something was missing. Biyi Bandele is also a good person to go for, Djo Munga from Viva Riva, the guy who made Slave Girl. These are edgy African filmmakers who allow their stories/films shine. Be nice to see her play Alek Wek.


Lupita's fluent in Spanish. She should focus on her international cache. Hollywood isn't the endgame since she already has the Oscar. She can align herself with foreign auteurs: Pedro Almodovar and Alfonso Cuaron.


It would be great to see her have a designer-muse relationship and land a lucrative fashion/beauty campaign.

As for a relationship with a director, it would be great to see her work with different directors. She'll know if she wants to keep working with someone or not. That bond just can't be planned.


Hard-hitting think-tank questions on S&A!

Next deep topic: Which Actor Could Lupita Like Totally Go For In Real Life?


I am rooting for Lupita and Ava! Talk about some sultry films with women at the helm by those two! But, I agree that Lupita could end up being McQueen's muse. I believe that he will always be in her corner and work to develop her filmography as well as his own. Would be a very complimentary pairing…


Fassbender may be Steve's muse currently, but Steve is loyal and I could see Lupita taking the role of his female muse. Much like David O Russell loves both Bradley and Jennifer and casts them both.

Cameron Bonnett

A women of power, intelligence, influence….Ruler of the World in the future with human extinction inevitable at the hands of our maker. She would have to convince God that our race is worth saving.

sydney Levine

Brilliant idea! I adore the work of Andrew Dosunmu. He is so fresh and original…however, I wonder if two Africans are compatible culturally. I don't know, I'm just saying…maybe too "ethnic" but not very sensitive. My choice would be Amma Asante. Belle is brilliant, beautiful, exotic and familiar at the same time. That cross-cultural mix, plus woman-to-woman, would be so exciting to watch! I love Ava DuVernay but find her quintessentially American. And she's already been with Steve McQueen and he thrives on really difficult subjects. My guess is he'll move on to some other little thought-about but very relevant subject next.


BINGO! I got it! Listen up because this is the real deal.

Okay, I think we all can agree on the film business being more about who's hot than who's the most talented. And, if we're focusing on black actor the slope gets mighty slippery. So, right now, who are the hottest "it" black actors – male & female – on the scene today. Well, without a doubt the answer is Lupita and Kevin Hart. Listen, some may not believe Kevin is funny nor talented but the bottom line says he's the big "it"-sh*t right now, so stay with me.

Jai has already mentioned the popular directors who could ride this soul train, and since we're trying to keep this in the family, we now need popular and proven black writers. Hey, I'm tellin' y'all, I've went the distance on this "proposition". So the writers I've chosen are known in the industry (remember this is a "who you know and who knows you" business) and are currently working. In fact, 2 of them have projects that has turned heads at ABC and HBO. So, without further ado I present Courtney Lilly, Bashir Salahuddin, Kriss Turner and Kenya Barris. Now tell me they ain't plugged and carrying mega-juice. Come on now, we're talkin' The Bernie Mac Show, Living Single, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Everybody Hates Chris, Arrested Development, Soul Food (the TV series), Girlfriends, and The Game, and America's Next Top Model. That's talent and juice, it's a no-brainer, those black folks are at the end of the line, and thus, a perfect fit for my proposal.

Speaking of a black man pitching a proposal, it has been said anytime a person of color (read black folks) submits a script for consideration to the powers that be, said script is incomplete if a bonifide star or a current "it" person is not attached. But hey, we got that covered, right? forget about it, it does not get any "it-her-him-ish" than Kevin and Lupita. So now the train is moving along, directors (check), actors (check), writers (check), studio interests (check), but now we need a script. BINGO…. we already have one hot on the press. So excuse me, move aside Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson, no offense intended but Kevin and Lupita are about to take your place in Kenya Barris's "Black-ish"!

"A tv sit-com, Carey, really?"

That's right and slow your roll. Many of the great directors have and are currently working in television. The same can be said for actors. In fact, both Ava DuVernay and Lupita have wet their feet in and been paid by tv. And, actually, this is the best way to go for all involved. Let's face it, if your skin is black the opportunity to find consistent work is few and far between. So it just makes perfect sense to snag a handsome paying tv gig while always keeping a movie career a close-by option.

So back to "Black-ish"! Isn't Lupita's personality a perfect fit for the black character who finds themself in the situation of always being the only black face in the crowd? And can't you see Kevin Hart being her boss or manager or even her husband? :<) I can!

I haven't read Kenya's script, but I envision endless storylines. And, as I said, this package is tight and ready to go – thee gangs all here. There's absolutely no holes in this proposal – that I can see… what about you?

But wait, can't you see the face of a studio exec when you say you have a script and a few friends you'd like him or her to meet. And then you walk in with Ava-Steve, Kevin, Lupita and Oscar – WOW. I think it on. Pencil, paper (contracts) and money would be the next topics of discussion. Think not? Why not?


With many of the meaty dramatic roles being in television now, would it be a good look for her to keep an eye out for that great television opportunity? I certainly heard rumblings on social media last night that the likes of House of Cards are on par with many of the Oscar nominees. Not a knock on the film makers above (most of whom I absolutely adore), but television could provide the weight in roles many of us are hoping for her with greater visibility.

Kite Davis

Having won such high accolades so early in her career, it's important that Lupita does not dissipate her energy and the respect she has earned with meaningless roles in forgettable movies. Better not to work for 5 years and then return in another exciting and worthwhile role. It's both the price and responsibility of such a talent.

Lupita? They are calling you an artist. But how do you see yourself in 5 years? Another B-lister who once won an Oscar? Or do you wanna be known only for great roles? Decisions, decisions. It all starts today.


Obviously, creating an actor/director relationship is an organic process that can begin at any time during the lengthy career that now beckons. The crux, actually, is that Lupita is able to express the full range of her talent and skills in future roles. It can't be planned but a lot of what happens is down to the choices she makes. Is she going to carry on accepting roles in fodder like Non-Stop? Or is she going to now actively seek out projects and filmmakers with serious artistic values?

Whichever road she chooses will hold rewards and pitfalls. But the truly great acting talents of the last half-century, in general, chose roles in keeping with an ethos that meant quality work in quality films.

An actor can develop a brand and a faithful audience but it's a risky proposition if one is not proactively seeking out projects and fresh filmmaking talent to collaborate with.

For my money, her best move is to take a step away from the rush of offers that will come and use that space to make crucial decisions that will nurture both her own creative expression and establish her as a known and quality brand. This is what actors like Robert de Niro, Meryl Streep et al, have successfully implemented. Is she in that class? Time will tell.

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