Global Grind Sr. Content Director Janeé Bolden spoke with The Color Purple director Blitz Bazawule about his fresh new take on the film. Bazawule revealed he originally found the task daunting but he turned to the original Alice Walker text for guidance and found inspiration on the very first page.
The Color Purple Director Blitz Bazawule Says Alice Walker’s Book Helped Guide Him Through Remake
“It’s sacred text, but I also felt that it had been done so brilliantly, it’s adaptations, both in cinematic form with Steven [Spielberg] and in the Tony award-winning Broadway play,” Bazawule told Global Grind. “They all found something to say about Alice’s brilliant book. I couldn’t fathom that there was something new to say and so when I got the call I just decided to go back and read Alice’s book and for me I found what I was looking for, first page, first line, which says, ‘Dear God I’m 14-years-old…’ I went, ‘Alright well, whoever writes letters to God must have a sprawling imagination,’ and that’s a place we have not yet fully explored, Celie’s headspace. Yeah you know she’s often miscategorized as docile and passive and waiting to be saved/ I figured if we could get in her headspace and give her agency, watch how she’s actively working through her liberation, who to love, how to love, how to forgive, all these things, then we would actually earn our way into the canon and I think that’s what we’ve been able to achieve.”
Director Blitz Bazawule Likened Directing ‘The Color Purple’ To Being A Conductor Of First Chairs Only
Audiences will marvel at so many aspects of the updated version of The Color Purple, from wardrobe, to set design to musical performances, and Blitz likened his work to that of a conductor working with only “first-chairs.”
“I’m fortunate to be a conductor merely of masterful instrumentalists,” Bazawule said, describing his efforts. “Ultimately my job is simply to find harmony of all these incredible sounds and creative energies that are coming in and I was fortunate to have an A team on all levels — my DP, camera department, my production design team, costume team, choreography, the great Fatima Robinson, it was incredible. Every day at work was watching first chairs only just do their thing and my job again was simply to keep time and make sure that we were in harmony as a group, but yeah this film functions fully based on that masterful group.”
Blitz Bazawule Says He Casts Aura, Not People
In our observations of Bazawule during the film’s press tour, as well as behind the scenes photos and videos, it’s clear that the director forged strong relationships with his cast. Bazawule revealed that part of the reason behind these incredible relationships is that he casts “aura” not people, and ultimately was looking for actors who would forge harmony on set.
“It’s first about picking them, that’s the first job,” Bazawule told GlobalGrind. “I always say I cast aura, not people, because you know energy is what’s gonna pop off that screen. So I also value harmony greatly. I value picking people who are willing to work with each other, hold each other’s hand, help each other achieve the goal and filmmaking requires that we’re all in harmony, so I was lucky to find an incredible team that actually loves each other, love the work they do and could all submit to The Color Purple. Those were the only things that I asked.”
“My job was never to get in the way,” Bazawule continued. “Like I said, I’m the conductor. I’ll never know how to play that cello, my job is not to know how to play that cello. They’re the masters of that instrument. My job is to stand and keep time. And that’s all I did, and it’s beautiful to see that that energy that we had on set, which was beautiful camaraderie, found its way to us communicating the film, because it is real and natural and we truly care about each other. We checked in on each other constantly. I spent more time in people’s trailers than I did anywhere else, sitting, talking, catching up on hard days, asking how they’re feeling and it doesn’t take much, in my opinion, to build this family. These are friends and family for life.”
The Color Purple is in theaters now.
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