Kemp Powers on Regina King’s Direction of ‘One Night in Miami’

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One Night in Miami” is a work of historical fiction, but the film stands to make history: Regina King could become the first Black woman nominated for a best director Oscar. King, whose list of honors includes an Oscar and four Emmys for her acting, is also a prolific television director; she makes her feature directorial debut with the film.

“I’d be proud of her because she deserves it,” screenwriter Kemp Powers says of King’s possible nomination. “She did her job so well that it actually disguises how great a job she did as a director.”

“It was complex as hell to shoot this film that, ostensibly, 50% takes place in one location. Regina figured out a lot of that stuff on the fly,” he says. “I’ve written a script [adapted from his stage play of the same name] that gave a blueprint for the dialogue, but in terms of how to pull this all together and not just bore people to tears, and keep activity and movement going, Regina was just a bottomless pit of great ideas to activate this story.”

Powers says he’s biased in his praise but maintains that King’s skill at translating the dialogue-heavy story to the screen was exceptional.

“When I look back at great talky films where directors got nominations, they didn’t do the kind of work that she had to do,” he says. “Now, I don’t mind a talky film — one of the most impactful films on me as a little kid was ‘12 Angry Men.’ A movie like that is engaging, and it’s like an action movie of words.”

“The thing you don’t see is an action movie of words with Black people,” Powers adds. His mission for both the stage and screen versions of the “boxing match in a hotel room” was to take action heroes out of the action and instead use their intellect as their weapon.

Powers compares King’s film debut to the reaction that greeted Kathryn Bigelow’s “Point Break.” The 1991 action movie was not Bigelow’s first time in the director’s chair, but it sent up a road flare signaling that she had an innate ability to direct hardcore action scenes.

“You can tell from everything [Bigelow] did that this woman knows action movies. ‘Point Break’ is still one of the best action movies I’ve ever seen in my life,” Powers says. “Similarly, if you come away from ‘One Night in Miami’ and don’t understand what [King] is capable of, that’s like putting the blinders on, because she activated that story in a way that a lot of other directors wouldn’t have even tried to. As far as I’m concerned, she’s always going to deserve a medal.”





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