A few months after Nia DaCosta officially signed on to direct the new Candyman — which has gone on to become the first movie directed by a Black woman to premiere at the top of the box office — the director happened to bump into New York Times columnist and illustrator Julia Rothman, who was randomly interviewing people on the street about their relationships to debt.
While those not familiar with DaCosta’s earlier work like Little Woods might not have recognised her name at the time, what she said about her $US100,000 ($135,570) student loan debt resonated with many who could relate to living with the constant stress of having to pay back that much money (plus interest). In order to rid herself of that kind of stress, DaCosta reasoned in 2019, she’d need to land a massive, Avengers-level directing gig, which would allow her to “pay it all in one fell swoop.”
Then, in 2020, news broke that DaCosta was set to direct Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel sequel, The Marvels.
Like any high-profile celebrity with good sense who suddenly found themselves thrust into the public spotlight in a major way, DaCosta quietly left social media not long after The Marvels news began making the rounds, and much of the buzz about her since her been focused on Candyman’s box office success. But during a recent appearance on Audioboom’s Blank Check podcast DaCosta spoke a bit about how booking The Marvels changed her life, and she explained how, hyped as she is to be working on the movie, the project did not magically erase the kind of financial burden she was talking about in the Times.
“I was like, I will only pay them off if I get a Marvel movie, and now that I have one, I’m like ‘Jesus, I’m still not going to [be able to] pay them all off,’” DaCosta said. “Everyone thinks I literally paid them off like when I got the job, which is not how you get paid through the [Directors Guild of America].”
DaCosta’s comments come at a time when more members of the film industry — actors in particular — are speaking up about how much they’re being paid or underpaid as part of a larger conversation about pay equity within the industry. Every director and actor’s situation with studios is unique, but in the past Marvel has been widely reported to adhere to a tiered structure where the size of employees’ checks are determined by a variety of factors, like their star power and centrality to their respective franchises. Actors’ and directors’ pay on the back end has been tied to the financial success of their projects, meaning that the more money a movie like The Marvels makes at the box office, the more DaCosta and stars Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris, and Iman Vellani will end up being paid after the film’s release.
To that end, DaCosta also expressed how ready she was (this episode of Blank Check was recorded some time ago) to finally dive into The Marvels’ production. “Honestly, I’ve been prepping for 10 months, and we just need to start shooting,” DaCosta said. “There’s only so much you can prep a movie, even one as big as this, and I’m just like ‘let’s go. Let’s do it.’”
Candyman is in theatres now, and The Marvels hits theatres on November 11, 2022.