“I like the films to come out and have nothing lined up,” he told Deadline. “You’re showing a new performance, a new way, a new space that you were in at that time, so you gotta let that get out there and spread.”
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The London native and Oscar winner has instead moved behind the camera, as a producer, with Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul, the first film from his production company 59% out in theaters this weekend.
Written and directed by Adamma Ebo in her feature debut, the film follows the story of Trinity Childs (Regina Hall), the first lady of a prominent Southern Baptist megachurch who attempts to help her pastor-husband, Lee-Curtis Childs (Sterling K. Brown), rebuild their congregation and reconcile their faith following a scandal that threatens their elite status.
The film is shot in a satirical mockumentary style, an aesthetic choice that Kaluuya said provided the opportunity to explore his philosophical interests in the role cinema can play in the world.
“You don’t really see films about black people with this tone in this sort of narrative. Let’s discuss these relationships and issues in a digestible way,” he said.
“I’m a firm believer in accessible excellence. I think a lot of excellence is inaccessible. I’m a cinephile and I watch films with my friends that I grew up with and I test my taste in films on them to see if they translate to the common man and woman. And I feel like Honk for Jesus does that. But doesn’t sacrifice craft for it.”
The next feature from 59% productions will also mark Kaluuya’s feature screenwriting debut. The company is currently in production on The Kitchen, a dystopian thriller co-written by Kaluuya with Joe Murtagh (Calm With The Horses) and directed by Kibwe Tavares in his feature debut.
The film is set in London in a distant future where the gap between the rich and poor has been stretched to its limits, and the city’s working classes have been forced to live in temporary accommodation on the outskirts of the city. The story follows Izi, a resident who is desperately trying to find a way out, and 12-year-old Benji, who has lost his mother and is searching for a family.
“The idea came to me when I was sitting in a barber shop and this guy was talking about the idea of million-pound heists in a minute and I just thought that would be the coolest film I’d ever see,” Kaluuya said of the film’s origins.
Netflix is set to release the film worldwide next year, and Kano, a pioneer of the UK hip-hop scene best known on screen for his role in the TV series Top Boy, has been cast in the leading role. The film will mark the rapper’s feature debut.
“I probably pitched the project in 2012, wrote on it in 2013, and we shot a taster in 2014. In that time, Kano had risen as an actor,” Kaluuya said of casting the musician. “The series of Top Boy, not the one that’s just gone, the one before, I was just like, this guy is incredible. This guy’s so good. He understands.”
Aside from producing and writing, Kaluuya has also lent himself and his production company to a new award titled 59% Gen Now set to highlight new talent working in the UK film and TV industry. This year’s recipient, Adjani Salmon, was selected from a list of five actors, including Samuel Adewunmi, Kosar Ali, Ambika Mod, and Sheyi Cole.
“He had this limitless creativity to him,” Kaluuya said of Salmon. “He was saying things like I wanna direct a Bond film. He was limitless.”
The Judas and the Black Messiah actor said he hopes the award can help new talent further their careers in the industry while continuing to provide him with an outlet to use his new-found fame productively.
“A lot of fame is just reacting to people’s projections or feelings about you,” he said. “But to shine a light on the talent that is there and doing incredible work. That’s the part of fame that is a deep privilege.”
Earlier this week Jordan Peele teased a potential future for the Nope universe: “We’re not over telling all of these stories,” he told the New York Times. No word yet whether Kaluuya will be involved. No update either on a Netflix project written about last year called The Upper World.
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