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
Keener 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.
Years, 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
Mbatha-Raw 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
directors or projects would you like to see Lupita Nyong’o take on, now
that she’s won the Oscar?