According to director Steve McQueen, Colin Farrell (Jack Mulligan) and Robert Duvall (Tom Mulligan) improvised many of their scenes.
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After a three-decade career playing more than 75 mostly supporting roles, this film marks Viola Davis's first lead role in a major studio movie.
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First feature film directed by Steve McQueen that does not have Michael Fassbender in the cast. Fassbender had starred in McQueen's three previous movies: Hunger (2008), Shame (2011), and 12 Years a Slave (2013). Prior to this, McQueen had only directed short films.
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Elizabeth Debicki is over a foot taller than Jacki Weaver, who plays her mom in the movie. On shooting scenes together, Weaver said: "She's a gorgeous girl, but she's six-foot-three and I'm four-foot-11, so the only way they could get us into the same shot was if she was sitting down!" Though not similar in height, both Weaver and Debicki are Australian.
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Composer Hans Zimmer worked briefly on the original Widows (1983) television series on which this film is based, as an assistant to the show's composer Stanley Myers.
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This film is based on the British television series Widows (1983). Director Steve McQueen began thinking about adapting the six-part crime drama into a film in 2012, while he was shooting Best Picture winner 12 Years a Slave (2013).
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Dialect coach Tanera Marshall worked with the actors on their Chicago accents. She began by collecting samples, to avoid stereotypes, then left the choice to the director and actors to evaluate what best fit each character. After this she worked with the actors individually to refine pronunciation.
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The West Highland White Terrier featured in this film is also named Olivia in real life and was born in 2015. Her first screen appearance was in the Netflix series Insatiable (2018). She also appeared in both this movie and Game Night (2018) the same year.
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Actress Michelle Rodriguez, who plays Linda in the film, originally refused the part. During an interview with Vanity Fair she explained: "I didn't see the female empowerment in soft power. It was an all-too-familiar tale of poverty in an urban environment. I lived that life, why would I want to portray it?" Director Steve McQueen ended up auditioning a handful of other actresses for the role, and none of them worked as well as he thought Rodriguez would. After meeting with McQueen and discussing the film, Rodriguez eventually agreed to take the part, wanting both to challenge herself and to reflect on the women in her life who she knew when she was growing up, whom she had always seen as weak.
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According to director Steve McQueen, the first cut of the movie was closer to three hours long. The final cut runs for 129 minutes.
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To help write the script, director Steve McQueen turned to Gillian Flynn, author of several hit novels, some of which were adapted to film and television. Flynn was instantly drawn to the project, as much for the place given to women as for her hometown of Chicago.
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According to Viola Davis, one of the makeup artists on the movie wrangled the whole cast and crew into doing a 28-day cleanse. When she appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (2014), Davis said: "We had to meditate every day, and do other stuff, and we couldn't eat. Well, we could eat - but we couldn't chew, and we couldn't suck." Out of the 28 days the liquid cleanse was supposed to last, Davis lasted for two days before she broke down and went to McDonald's.
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When Jamal (Brian Tyree Henry) introduces his brother to Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell), his brother says his own name and Mulligan responds, "I love you too." That joke is based on the fact that "Jatemme" sounds the same as "je t'aime," which is French for "I love you."
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In prepping for the project, Viola Davis asked director Steve McQueen what kind of wig or extensions she should wear to play Veronica. She was shocked when McQueen told her to wear her hair as is. Davis later remarked that this was a liberating experience for her and represented an important social statement.
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This was the first movie role Broadway star Cynthia Erivo ever shot. She also appeared in another film, Bad Times at the El Royale (2018), the same year, and although that movie was released theatrically one month prior to this one, Erivo had filmed Widows (2018) in the summer of 2017 and did not shoot Bad Times until the beginning of 2018.
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In a series of tweets, an extra on the film said that Colin Farrell (who plays Jack Mulligan) would tell jokes over a megaphone between takes to entertain the large crowd of extras, and that he spotted the actor helping an elderly woman with her shoe.
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This is Steve McQueen's first feature film as a director since 12 Years a Slave (2013) won Best Picture at the 2014 Academy Awards. That film became the first movie directed and produced by a black filmmaker to win Best Picture.
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Olivia, the West Highland White Terrier featured in the film, was given her own trailer and groomers on set. Though actress Viola Davis was initially hesitant about working with her, she ended up falling in love with the dog within the first five minutes of meeting her.
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Jennifer Lawrence was reportedly approached for the role of Alice, but had to decline due to scheduling conflicts with filming Red Sparrow (2018). Elizabeth Debicki would go on to play the role.
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Director Steve McQueen cast Elizabeth Debicki as Alice after hearing about a play she did in 2014 called 'The Maids', with Cate Blanchett and Isabelle Huppert. He heard about the play and called her in for an audition, and was so blown away that he offered her the role only an hour after the audition was over.
The song that plays during the final scene and end credits is called 'The Big Unknown' and was written and performed by Nigerian singer-songwriter Sade. This was the second song the artist had contributed to a soundtrack in the year 2018, with the first being 'Flower of the Universe' for A Wrinkle in Time (2018).
Author Gillian Flynn's first time working on a screenplay that was not based on one of her novels. She previously adapted Gone Girl (2014), Dark Places (2015), and Sharp Objects (2018) for the screen, all of which were based upon books that she wrote.
After being cast in the movie, Michelle Rodriguez began working with an acting coach, this being the first time she had received acting lessons since her motion picture debut in the Sundance darling Girlfight (2000) eighteen years prior. The acting coach worked with her on one of the tougher emotional scenes, in which her character confronts and then kisses a man who is also mourning the loss of a spouse.
Actress Ann Mitchell appears briefly in the funeral scene as Amanda (Carrie Coon)'s mom. She played the lead role in the original British television series on which this is based.
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The original British television series Widows (1983) was set in London, and director Steve McQueen is actually British. That said, McQueen decided early on to move the location to Chicago, as he felt that London no longer worked for a heist film. Chicago, however, was beginning to make headlines for gun crime and police shootings.
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Actors Liam Neeson and Colin Farrell are both Irish, and this film marks the first time that they have worked together. Coincidentally, at one point they were both in the running for the role of James Bond, which eventually went to Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig.
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One of the biggest laughs in the movie comes when Alice (Elizabeth Debicki), fresh off her first date as an escort, walks into the widows' meeting den in a gold Herve Leger bandage dress that Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) likens to a condom. That line was actually ad-libbed by Rodriguez, which was fitting because costume designer Jenny Eagan wanted the dress to seem a little tacky and a little off.
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The long car tracking shot was filmed along an eight-block course in Chicago, driving from 47th Street to a tony Hyde Park mansion.
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The film's cast includes two Academy Award winners: Robert Duvall and Viola Davis; and four Academy Award nominees: Liam Neeson, Jacki Weaver, Daniel Kaluuya, and Cynthia Erivo. Further, Davis, Duvall, and Colin Farrell have all won a Golden Globe.
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The American hip hop duo 'The Cool Kids' (featuring Sir Michael Rocks and Chuck Inglish) makes a cameo appearance in the gym scene. They are in the midst of freestyling when Daniel Kaluuya's character shows up, so he makes them continue.
Just like her character in the film, Elizabeth Debicki could not drive in real life at the time that this movie was made. She'd missed her opportunity to get her license when she was a teenager, then went to acting school in the city and didn't feel the need to get one.
Had a 60-day shoot, taking place from early May to late July 2017.
Alice says she is Polish. She is played by Elizabeth Debicki, whose father is Polish.
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The film was first announced as being in development in March 2015, with a script written by Gillian Flynn and Steve McQueen, and with McQueen attached to direct. In September 2016, Viola Davis joined the cast. The following month, Cynthia Erivo came onboard. The next year, in February 2017, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez, and Daniel Kaluuya all joined the project in major roles. Principal photography began on 8 May 2017 in Chicago, Illinois and wrapped that same summer, in late July.
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Veronica Rawlings (Viola Davis) lives in one of the two famous Mies van der Rohe luxury penthouse apartment buildings in the Gold Coast on Lake Shore Drive.
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Amy Adams was rumored for a role when the film was first announced.
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The film reunites Michelle Rodriguez and Colin Farrell, after they first appeared together in S.W.A.T. (2003) fifteen years earlier.
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Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt has worked with director Steve McQueen on all of his full-length feature films and this marked their fourth collaboration on a major motion picture. Bobbitt has also worked with McQueen on several of his short films.
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Over eighty Chicago locations were used in the film.
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The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) on 8 September 2018, and was released theatrically in the United Kingdom on 6 November of the same year and in the United States on 16 November, by 20th Century Fox.
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Director Steve McQueen and co-writer Gillian Flynn did research for the film with the FBI. They saw The Matrix (1999), spoke to politicians and clergyman off-the-record, spoke to private investigators, and met with people in the underworld.
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Cynthia Erivo, who plays Belle in the film, is an accomplished singer in real life - she won the 2016 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical as well as the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album for her performance in the Broadway revival of 'The Color Purple'. This movie originally featured a scene where Erivo did sing, however, it was cut from the final version because director Steve McQueen wanted her performance to be "as pure as possible, no singing, no anything," a choice that the actress agreed with.
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Only the stunt scenes had storyboards and a single camera operated by cinematographer Sean Bobbitt was used for everything except the explosion of the van. This documentary-like approach to filmmaking was taken so that the camera would respond to the action of the actors, instead of the actors having to respond to the camera. The scene in the gym with Daniel Kaluuya's character, for instance - where the camera does a 360-degree turn around the actors - that approach wasn't decided on until the day the scene was shot.
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Second film directed by Steve McQueen to have Garret Dillahunt in the cast. The two had previously worked together on 12 Years a Slave (2013).
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When Veronica (Viola Davis) goes to find Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell) in his office, you can see a poster of the "Montecchi e Capuleti" from Romeo and Juliet. In the play there were two rival families, like the Mulligans and the Mannings.
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Based on the 1983 ITV series of the same name, written by Lynda La Plante, screenwriter of crime shows such as Prime Suspect (1991) and Trial & Retribution (1997). As a young teenager, director Steve McQueen discovered the program, which had a major impact on him growing up in London in the 1980s.
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Three cast members have appeared in films directed by Christopher Nolan. Liam Neeson played Ra's al Ghul in Batman Begins (2005) and had a cameo in The Dark Knight Rises (2012); Lukas Haas had a small part in Inception (2010); and Elizabeth Debicki was the female lead in Nolan's time-twisting action film Tenet (2020).
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Viola Davis and Cynthia Erivo were both attached to a Harriet Tubman biopic at one point. The latter went on to star in Harriet (2019), for which she received two Academy Award nominations: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role and Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures.
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Actors Colin Farrell and Jon Bernthal both have ties to Daredevil. Farrell played the villain Bullseye in Daredevil (2003), while Bernthal played Frank Castle (or The Punisher) in the Netflix television series Daredevil (2015).
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Four cast members have appeared in adaptations of Marvel comics: Colin Farrell appeared in Daredevil (2003), Daniel Kaluuya in Black Panther (2018), Jon Bernthal was in the web television series Daredevil (2015) and The Punisher (2017), and Elizabeth Debicki played Ayesha in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017).
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Liam Neeson, Viola Davis, Coburn Goss, and Colin Farrell have all been in film adaptations of DC comics. Neeson played Ra's al Ghul in Batman Begins (2005) and made a cameo in The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Davis was in Suicide Squad (2016) and The Suicide Squad (2021), Goss appeared in Man of Steel (2013), and Farrell played the role of The Penguin in The Batman (2022).
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Liam Neeson and Lukas Haas appeared together in Leap of Faith (1992). Haas and Robert Duvall appeared together in Rambling Rose (1991). And Duvall and Colin Farrell appeared together in Crazy Heart (2009).
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