A Wrinkle in Time is a adaptation to the big screen of the classic children’s book that has the same name. At the center of the story is a 13-year-old girl, Meg Murry – played by Storm Reid – who is bullied at school because, among other things, her father disappeared without a trace four years earlier. When she arrives home, her younger adopted brother Charles Wallace, played by Deric McCabe, has invited a strange woman into the house identifying herself as Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon). Soon, the kids are introduced to Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), and Mrs. Which. The fantasy adventure was adapted by Jennifer Lee, who wrote Frozen.
Let’s check it out what they spoke about collaborating between director and writer, the changes made from the book to the big screen, working with Disney, and more.
A Wrinkle in Time hits theaters on March 9.
Jennifer, what was your first meeting with Ava DuVernay like?
Jennifer Lee – It was fantastic, actually. I had daydreamed of Ava directing this and never imagined. She walked in and I said, “Really?!,” because her incredible, evocative, emotional storytelling is what this film needed. This is a journey across the universe, but at the heart of it is a family story that empowers young girls. So, Ava walked in, and she was so gracious and kind to me. She embraced me in the process with her, and I’m very grateful. Right away, I was smitten. I would follow her anywhere.
Ava DuVernay – Jennifer Lee made Frozen. Just in case anyone isn’t clear, she’s a legend in our midst.
Ava, what was it like to get in touch with your inner child for this?
Ava – This is a film for young people and people who are young at heart. I had to ask myself, do I still have a heart? Is there still an inner child in me? Can I tap into the 11-year-old, 12-year-old and 13-year-old in me, and find that light that I used to have, that dreamer? 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.
Jennifer, for those who are A Wrinkle in Time loyalists, what is the greatest shift that you made to adapt the book for 2018?
Jennifer – We talked a lot about what makes Wrinkle so amazing. It has resonated for decades and decades because there is a timeless quality to the themes that she was dealing with. We did look a lot at, what do those themes mean today, and how do you stay true to that, but re-interpret them in a way that we see our world? We just had a lot of conversations about what we were inspired by, and then what that meant to us growing up, and to children and the world now.
Ava, why was it so important to you to give this experience to young people?
Ava – 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, 11 or 12 years. So, I wanted to be able to just give a little breather and to say, “Who you are is enough. 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. A friend of mine (Oprah Winfrey) had a tremendous episode of peer pressure, of gigantic proportions, that I’d never experienced or seen, just a couple of weeks ago, when a lot of the country was saying, “You should run for President.” She said, “The voice inside of me says that I am not your President. I can do good in the world, in different way.” I probably would’ve even said, “If everybody thinks I should, I’m gonna give it a try.”
How do you feel about the final result, at the end of this journey?
Ava – I feel like I tried and gave everything I had to a film again. 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. They’re what I leave behind. They have my name on them and my blood in them. From there, you offer it up to the world and you hope that they can see our intention. This was an extraordinary experience for me. 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 going down dark holes. It kept me in a really light-filled place, so I’m grateful for the past few years of working on A Wrinkle in Time.
Oprah, the role of Mrs. Which seemed perfectly tailored to you. Did you feel that way when you were playing the character?
Oprah Winfrey – Yes, I did. As a matter of fact, I actually did. You all have heard me say this before and it’s so true. Ava and I are talking on the phone and when she went to New Zealand and posted pictures of scouting for New Zealand, I have been in New Zealand the year before, in Auckland (capital), and did not get to visit the South Island, and I had wanted to do that. Everybody says, 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. And she goes, what do you mean, go? I 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, shoot and say “Action!” because I can. She said, “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 going to 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. And then I thought, “Okay, let me read the book, see what this is.”
Oprah, you did some wire work, right?
Oprah – 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. It has been, the word “delight,” 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.
Reese, how did you enjoy playing the sassy Mrs. Whatsit?
Reese Witherspoon – My agent called me and said, “Ava DuVernay wants you to be in a movie,” and I said, “Yes! Great! When do I show up?!” They were like, “Oh, no, she has to take a meeting with you.” So, I sat across from her like, “Really, you want me?!” It was very flattering to be chosen to be part of Ava’s movie 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, and valued for their contributions. I feel like this was a master class in how to be a very thoughtful filmmaker and a real visionary, in so many ways. It was a privilege and an honor, and I got to be this amazing celestial person, who hangs out with Oprah and Mindy, all day. It really was truly a delight. The fact that I got to stand next to these extraordinary women, who I’ve admired for so long, was extraordinary. It was really a beautiful experience.
Oprah, what’s different about this project as opposed to some of the other ones that you and Ava have collaborated on? Not just the script obviously and the cast, but in terms of the process with working and how you arrived to this point?
Oprah – Well, first of all, you have Disney money. (Everybody and Oprah laughs) What’s different is Selma, at the end, we were like, “Are we’re going to have enough money? How much do I have? Let me try to help you out here.” With this, you’ve 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 it. I’ve said this before. It makes me well up inside. It fills my heart, every time I think about Ava and her dread-locked hair 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 powerful and inspiring. It touches 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. We had to get it before it rains, and if it rains, we’re not going to get it. We didn’t have enough money to try it again. So, it was a big difference.
Mindy, as someone who’s a fan of science fiction and fantasy, was being a part of this something of a dream come true?