EXCLUSIVE: Ava DuVernay directed the film that opened the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., back in 2016, and now the 13th and Selma helmer is aiming for another type of history with a documentary about Prince for Netflix.
“Prince was a genius and a joy and a jolt to the senses,” the Oscar-nominated filmmaker told Deadline tonight of the Purple Rain star who died in April 2016. “He was like no other,” DuVernay added of the Oscar winner and eight-time Grammy recipient. “He shattered every preconceived notion, smashed every boundary, shared everything in his heart through his music. The only way I know how to make this film is with love. And with great care. I’m honored to do so and grateful for the opportunity entrusted to me by the estate.”
It wasn’t just Prince’s estate that saw DuVernay as a collaborator and specifically choose her to make the film. The man himself blessed the film in a sense. Before he passed away, Prince reached out to the Queen Sugar creator directly about working together, I’ve learned.
In that vein and like 13th, DuVernay’s 2016 examination of the racial underpinnings of America’s mass-incarnation system, the untitled docu started discreetly early this year. That’s nearly two years after Prince’s sudden decline and death soon afterward.
As part of the development of the film, the estate has granted the ARRAY founder full access to the vast trove of archives recordings and, perhaps most immediately important to Prince’s global fanbase, the unreleased material by the prolific musician. The early stages of the project already have seen DuVernay, editor Spencer Averick and other members of her core production team visit Prince’s Paisley Park home and studios repeatedly during the past several months.
Of course, the Prince project is far from all DuVernay has been working on this year. The A Wrinkle in Time director has been in production in New York for months on Central Park Five with a cast including Michael K. Williams, Vera Farmiga, John Leguizamo, Joshua Jackson, Christopher Jackson and 12 Years a Slave’s Adepero Oduye. Written and directed by DuVernay, the four-part drama about five Harlem teens were incorrectly convicted first in the media and then twice in the courts for the brutal 1989 rape of a jogger in the NYC park is set to launch on Netflix next year.
DuVernay is repped by CAA and attorney Nina Shaw. The Prince estate is represented by lawyer Jason Boyarski and Troy Carter as entertainment adviser. Prince himself is repped by lightning in a bottle, as he always was.