The book A Wrinkle in Time has been around since 1962. Several generations now have been captivated by the story of young siblings who traverse supernatural landscapes looking for their scientist father. Now A-list Hollywood stars portray the celestial beings and father.
Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon play the beings Mrs. Which and Mrs. Whatsit, along with Mindy Kaling as Mrs. Who. Chris Pine plays the scientist, all under the direction of Ava DuVernay. DuVernay, Winfrey, Witherspoon and Pine were at a press conference speaking about A Wrinkle in Time, which opens this weekend in theaters.
Q: How did you capture what it’s like to be a child?
AD: This is a film for young people and people who are young at heart. For me, I have to ask myself, do I still have a heart, first of all, and is there an inner child still in me? Did I tap into the 11-year-old, the 12-year-old, the 13-year-old in me, and find that light that I used to have, that dreamer? So I got to do that for two years. I got to really get in touch with all that I thought I would be when I was young and really tap into that and try to create some magic with this great group of people. There’s love in every frame of this movie and there’s love in every frame of everything that I do. I don’t have children. I won’t have children by choice. These films are my children, are what I leave behind. They have my name on them, have my blood in them. From there, you offer it up to the world and you hope that they can see our intention. But, this was an extraordinary experience for me. It’s emotional to sit here with all of them because we really held hands on this and became a family, trying to just give a little bit of sweetness to the world in these dark times. It’s a tough time right now. This film really saved me in a lot of ways from kind of going down dark holes and kept me in a really light-filled place so I’m grateful for the past few years working on A Wrinkle in Time.
Q: Does this movie help kids deal with this dark time?
AD: Yeah, they’re living in a chaotic time. We’re living in a chaotic time as adults, but imagine if you’ve only been on the earth for 10 years, and 11 years, and 12 years, the tension that you feel. So to be able to just give a little breather and to say who you are is enough, and this is how you’re gonna make it through by finding something in yourself that guides you. We all have that little voice inside of us, and a lot of times we don’t listen to it.
Q: Did you feel the part of Mrs. Which was tailored to you?
OW: Yes, I did. As a matter of fact, I actually did. Ava and I are talking on the phone and when she went to New Zealand and posted pictures of scouting for New Zealand, I havdbeen in New Zealand the year before, in Auckland and did not get to the South Island. I had wanted to do that. Everybody says if you didn’t get to the South Island, you haven’t really seen New Zealand. So when I heard that she was going to be filming in New Zealand, I said to you, I’m going. I’m going. I’m just going to go. I’m just going to go hang out with you for however long it takes. I’m going to block it on my schedule. I’m going to be there. I’m going to watch you shoot and say, “Action” because I can. She said, “Well, if you’re serious about that, if you’re really serious about that, you’d actually come to New Zealand?” I go, “For sure I’m gonna be there.” And she said, “Well, why not take a look at the script? I’ve been wanting to ask you to do this, but I didn’t want to pressure you because of our friendship.” I go, “Okay, I’ll do it.” I didn’t even know what it was. I’ll do it. Then I thought, okay, let me read the book, see what this is. I’ve never read the book, and you know I’m a reader. Never got to my neighborhood, I don’t know. It wasn’t until the very first day I was called for the fitting for the costumes with Paco Delgado that I realized, “Whoa. This is some kind of movie.” And the first day on the wires I went, “This is really some kind of movie. What kind of movie is this that she had just came up out of the imagination?” When you look up the word “delight,” there’s my picture. For being in this film, the whole process has just been one big delight.
Q: Was it the same playing Mrs. Whatsit?
RW: Well, just being in the movie, I had a version of Oprah’s story, too where my agent called me and said, “Ava Duvernay wants you to be in a movie–” Yes! Great, when do I show up? They were like, “Oh no, she has to take a meeting.” I was like, oh, okay, has to take a meeting. Oh yeah, I’m sorry. And so I sat across from her, I was like, “Really you want me?” It’s very flattering to be chosen to be part of Ava’s movies because she doesn’t just make a movie, she makes an experience for everyone. She cares about what happens in front of the camera and she cares about what happens behind the camera. Everybody feels like they are important, special, honored, valued for their contributions. I feel like this was a masterclass in how to be a very thoughtful filmmaker and a real visionary. So it was a privilege and an honor. I got to be this amazing celestial person who hangs out with Oprah and Mindy [Kaling] all day. The fact that I get to stand next to these extraordinary women who I’ve admired for so long and we get to talk about what would we impart to a young woman today, right now and discuss that with Ava and discuss that with Storm [Reid], it was extraordinary. Really, a beautiful experience.
Q: Chris, could you relate to this scientist wanting to push the world forward when the world’s not ready for it?
CP: Well, I had so much fun with this guy, Dr. Alexander. He is so cool. And this book, The Jazz of Physics [by Stephon Alexander]. I love jazz and I love John Coltrane. He opens the book talking about the music of the universe and how music and John Coltrane and physics and stars are one of the same thing and I just fell in love with this guy. I could talk to him for hours. The poor guy was having emails all the time asking him the dumbest things of all time. Something he said that I thought was really interesting and this may be part of the movie or not, but he was talking about how in what he’s doing now, it’s like we are all part of the same thing. In his studies, in his academic studies, he not only studies physics but he studies music, and then he studies painting. It’s like this incredible hive of a bursting mind. So I think that’s what I really enjoyed about this character is that his brain is just hungry and searching and explorative. Obviously that ambition to do great things propels him forward to do some wonderful things scientifically, but unfortunately that kind of shadow side of him, ambition, it disconnects from what is most important in his life and what requires his daughter to reintroduce him to, which is the spirit and the beauty and regenerative quality of being next to human beings, touching and feeling and holding and kissing. All those things that make us human.
Q: Ava and Oprah, what makes A Wrinkle in Time different than collaborating on Selma and Queen Sugar?
OW: Well, first of all, you have Disney money. What’s different is Selma, we’re like, “We’re gonna have enough money, how much do I have, let me try to help you out here.“ You got the Disney machine and that’s why one of the reasons why this is so exciting, that Ava DuVernay is at the helm of that. I’ve said this before. It makes me well inside, fills my heart, every time I think about Ava and her dreads and her sneakers and these big cranes and all of these men running around, taking direction from her. To see her be the master of that, to orchestrate all of that was, was powerful and inspiring. It touches I think the part of us that recognizes, oh yeah, we can do that, we’ve always been able to do that. I was just so proud to be associated with her and her ability to make this film possible. So that’s what was different. I was with her on a film where literally we had one day to shoot everybody coming across the bridge in Selma. You got to get it before it rains, and if it rains, you’re not going to get it. You don’t have enough money to try it again. So, big difference. Big difference.
Q: Did working with kids help you all remember what it was like to be young?
CP: Working with young adults is a wonderful opportunity for an actor because their B.S. meter is so sharp. I remember working with a kid, and the moment I said something he didn’t believe, he just walked off camera. As actors you build a bunch of tricks that, if you get lazy, you can sort of throw them out. But, if you work with a kid, they’re like a metronome. They just keep you right there, you’ve got to be right there. So that was lovely working with Storm because she’s such an authentic human, such an authentic actress. I think, too, one of the great things about this film that I loved is this idea of re-parenting. As kids we’re taught that there’s some sort of hierarchical structure where adults are, by virtue of their age, smarter than we as children are. We forget that a lot of dumb kids grow up to be dumb adults. The beautiful thing about this piece is that a man that has become so rigid and structured and needy of getting the validation of his community, and he’s so hard that he forgets the most beautiful thing on the planet, this beautiful, supple, blooming flower of a gorgeous daughter that he has. He forgets that that’s the prize. There is no other. There’s no property or money. None of that stuff matters. It’s this. So that moment when they meet, that’s like the man finding his young inner child and remembering everything that’s beautiful, everything that’s beautiful about being a human.
Q: In the movie Mrs. Which says we need to restore hope. Do you think it’s possible to be hopeful in times like these?
OW: Oh yeah, for sure. I think the darkness is there to help bring out the light in all of us. If you think about it, if we turned all the lights off in this room, and one person just held a candle, you would start to dissipate the darkness. You would banish the darkness. Look at how much darkness it would take to actually engulf all the light that every candle would hold in this room. It just takes a little bit of light, just a little bit of light. That’s what we’re hoping for. A little bit of light. If everybody can get that message, that’s how we have hope in the world. We’re looking for warriors who can bring hope back. Thank you.
Photo Credits: Disney Pictures