ABOVE: DAVID OYELOW AND AVA DUVERNAY ON THE SET OF SELMA. PHOTO COURTESY OF PARAMOUNT PICTURES.
Ava DuVernay is an inspiring figure. After years as a studio publicist working on blockbusters such as Spy Kids (2001), I Robot (2004), and Spider-Man 2 (2004), she began writing and directing her own films. She started small with a documentary This Is Life, followed by a lyrical portrait of a woman coping with the death of a beloved aunt, I Will Follow. In 2012, she debuted Middle of Nowhere at Sundance, which documents the emotional struggle and sacrifice of Ruby, a woman whose husband has just been incarcerated. Among the film’s supporting cast was British actor David Oyelowo, who recommended DuVernay for Paramount’s Martin Luther King Jr. biopic, Selma. Now she’s nominated for a Golden Globe and an Oscar favorite.
But DuVernay is more than just a filmmaker; she also founded AFFRM, the African American Film Festival Releasing Movement, to help promote black independent films.
“Some black filmmakers will say, ‘I don’t want to be considered a black filmmaker, I’m a filmmaker.’ I don’t think that,” DuVernay told us in 2012. “I’m a black woman filmmaker. Just like A Separation is by an Iranian, male filmmaker and his film is through that lens, my films are through my lens, and I think it’s valuable and fine and worthy to be seen by everyone.”
Here, DuVernay answers some of our founder Andy Warhol’s favorite questions.
ANDY WARHOL: What did you have for breakfast?
AVA DUVERNAY: Grapefruit and toast with peanut butter.
WARHOL: What was your first job?
DUVERNAY: Expertly dispensing frozen yogurt and applying sprinkles and such in a local mall.
WARHOL: How did you end up in Hollywood? Did it just happen?
DUVERNAY: I left dreams of being a journalist behind at the point that I felt it was becoming too much like Hollywood. Why not double down on the real thing.
WARHOL: Is there anything you regret not doing?
DUVERNAY: Absolutely not. No regrets.
WARHOL: What’s your favorite movie?
DUVERNAY: Ashes and Embers (1982) by Haile Gerima.
WARHOL: Do you keep a diary?
DUVERNAY: I keep a gratitude journal, yes. And one day, my Twitter account will be a hoot to look back on in horror.
WARHOL: When do you get nervous?
DUVERNAY: Whenever I’m about to show one of my films in public for the very first time. Absolutely nerve-wracking.
WARHOL: Do you dream?
DUVERNAY: Yep. Big.
WARHOL: Have you been to the White House?
DUVERNAY: Not yet.
WARHOL: What do you think about love?
DUVERNAY: It’s the only thing that truly matters.
WARHOL: What are you reading right now?
DUVERNAY: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.
SELMA IS CURRENTLY IN THEATERS ACROSS THE U.S. IT IS ALSO SCREENING AT THE PALM SPRINGS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL.