Focus Features Picks Up Ruth Negga/Joel Edgerton ‘Loving’ Story (Based on Anti-Miscegenation Case)

Focus Features Picks Up Ruth Negga/Joel Edgerton 'Loving' Story (Based on Anti-Miscegenation Case)

Focus Features has acquired North American rights to "Loving," paying a reported $9 million for the film directed by Jeff Nichols, which follows the real-life story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple living in the state of Virginia in the 1960s, where interracial coupling was illegal, and their struggles, including the US Supreme Court case named after them – Loving vs Virginia (1967); the landmark civil rights case in which the United States Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, declared Virginia’s anti-miscegenation statute, unconstitutional, overturning existing laws and bringing an official end to all race-based restrictions on marriage in the United States.  

The film is inspired by director Nancy Buirski’s 2011 feature documentary on the couple, "The Loving Story." 

Persecuted by a local sheriff, the Lovings were found guilty of violating Virginia’s law against interracial marriage and forced to leave the state. But Mildred Loving chose to fight. She wrote a letter to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy asking for help. He referred her to the ACLU and two young attorneys took the case.

In 1958, they went to Washington, D.C. – where interracial marriage was legal – to get married. But when they returned home, they were arrested, jailed and banished from the state for 25 years for violating the state’s so-called Racial Integrity Act. To avoid jail, the Lovings agreed to leave Virginia and relocate to Washington. For 5 years, they lived in Washington, where Richard worked as a bricklayer. The couple had 3 children. Yet they longed to return home to their family and friends in VA. That’s when the couple contacted Bernard Cohen, a young attorney who was volunteering at the ACLU. They requested that Cohen ask the Caroline County judge to reconsider his decision.

Cohen and another lawyer challenged the Lovings’ conviction, but the original judge in the case upheld his decision.

This Judge Leon Bazile quote is heard at the beginning of the film: "Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents…. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix."

The case moved all the way up to the Supreme Court, where the young ACLU attorney made a vivid and personal argument: "The Lovings have the right to go to sleep at night knowing that if should they not wake in the morning, their children would have the right to inherit from them. They have the right to be secure in knowing that, if they go to sleep and do not wake in the morning, that one of them, a survivor of them, has the right to Social Security benefits. All of these are denied to them, and they will not be denied to them if the whole anti-miscegenistic scheme of Virginia… [is] found unconstitutional." 

The couple became celebrities after the landmark ruling. But Mildred and Richard wanted nothing to do with fame. They returned to their tiny Central Point, VA community, and shunned publicity. Richard died of injuries sustained in a car accident in 1975. Mildred, who died in 2008, was quiet and self-effacing and maintained all along that they married because they were in love, not to fight a civil rights battle.

Drawing on extensive archival footage, and on contemporary interviews with the family and the attorneys, Buirski’s feature documentary vividly brings the monumental court case to life.

Director Jeff Nichols’ feature-length scripted film based on the documentary stars Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton as the couple (I should mention that the story of the Lovings became the basis of "Mr. & Mrs. Loving," a 1996 made-for-TV movie that starred Lela Rochon, Timothy Hutton and Ruby Dee. However, it was reported that Mildred Loving dismissed it as mostly fantasy).

Joining Negga and Edgerton in the cast are Nick Kroll as Bernie Cohen, Jon Bass as Phil Hirschkop, Marton Csokas as Sheriff Brooks, Bill Camp as Frank Beazley, and Michael Shannon as Grey Villet, the LIFE Magazine photographer who shot the now-iconic images of the Lovings in 1965.

“I was struck by the simplicity of the Loving’s story, and I hope to make this a painfully beautiful film,” director Nichols said before production began on the film last year.

"Loving" is produced by Big Beach and UK-based Raindog Films (actor Colin Firth’s production company), with the former financing it as well.

Also Nancy Buirski, director of the documentary, is co-producing.

The above image is the first official photo of Negga and Edgerton as the Lovings.

No ETA on the film’s release, although I’d expect a late 2016 premiere, possibly on the international film festival circuit late in the year, as a potential awards season contender. It has all the makings of one.

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@ Winston Balagare: When you said, "They’ll fund it, and they’ll go out to watch it, but very few will live it." That is evident on the show "The Blachelor." Every Black women on the show for 20 seasons has failed to make it past week 5.

Winston Balagare

I have to agree with commenter "Joe". It’s really amazing how people accept this type of thing as diversity in film. It’s white man fantasy at its best. They’ll fund it, and they’ll go out to watch it, but very few will live it. And now some S&A readers are excited to see this? In 2016? What I find most disturbing is–if you know what Ruth Negga actually looks like–that Negga’s skin has been darkened a bit for the role; at least going by that photo.


I find it curious that at this point in time in American History with race relations and politics and Police shootings of unarmed Black Men I can’t turn on my television without seeing white men and black women rolling around in bed together its like "Plantation television"how many black women were put to death for dating white men?I’ll wait………….thought so it is the Black Man who suffered and continues to suffer killings,beatings at the hands of racist white men.Mr&Mrs Loving a story so good they had to tell it twice✌��️


Mrs. Loving may have dismissed that 1966 film as fantasy, but it was a wonderful movie nevertheless. I’m really eager to see this one.

Marcus B Like

Quality black themed movies are in the pipeline this year. I’m sure the Academy will make space for at least two of them if not three. Hoping the actress who plays Ruth can break into Best Actress. Only once in ’72 did two black women get nominated in the category. I really want a nonwhite actress to Best Actress again. It is the cruelest category in terms of diversity of nominees and especially winners as Halle Berry is the only one.

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