The stars of Netflix's comic-book movie unpack the importance of having two female leads, a Black female director, and a prominent gay love story.

By Nick Romano
July 09, 2020 at 09:00 AM EDT
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The Old Guard

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In many ways, The Old Guard stands as an example of what comic-book movies can look like. It's a film, based on the comics by writer Greg Rucka and artist Leandro Fernandez, with two women in the main roles; it's directed by a Black female filmmaker, Gina Prince-Bythewood; and the story features a prominent gay relationship. All of this wasn't lost on the actors when they were making the action saga, set to premiere on Netflix this Friday.

"I think it goes without saying, for all women in our industry, there's this real excitement when you get to do something that really [has at] the forefront two very interesting female leads," Charlize Theron, who plays immortal warrior woman Andy, says during EW's Around the Table interview with the cast for a digital cover story. "Unfortunately, we're still living and working in a place where sometimes that's very hard to find... It's embarrassing that in my almost 30 years of doing this that I haven't had that many opportunities to do that."

The Old Guard follows a group of un-killable mercenaries who've been operating in secret for centuries: Andy, Joe (Marwan Kenzari), Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), and Nicky (Luca Marinelli). Nile (KiKi Layne) is their new recruit who bears the same unexplainable ability. But in the age of technology, it's harder and harder to stay underground. Now, a man named Merrick (Harry Melling) is looking to capture them and study their DNA for his own nefarious purposes.

Big blockbuster comic-book-based movies, like DC and Marvel, are only just catching up to having women lead their own movies. (See Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, Birds of Prey, and Black Widow.) Prince-Bythewood, however, is the first Black woman to helm a large-scale feature of the comics variety. "There were just certain things that we could talk about and connect on that I couldn't really bring anywhere else," Layne mentions of working with her director.

As for LGBTQ representation in this particular sub-genre of Hollywood, it's virtually non-existent, though the folks at Marvel Studios promise more inclusion down the line in movies like The Eternals and Thor: Love and Thunder. The Old Guard, meanwhile, doesn't shy away from the dynamic between Joe and Nicky, two immortals who started out as enemies during the Crusades but became soulmates.

"I met Luca in London and afterwards, immediately, I told Gina, for some reason I knew Luca was gonna become a friend," Kenzari says of his costar. "I was relieved because I thought, 'Alright, I don't have to sort of act back.'" The actor, who previously played Jafar in Disney's live-action Aladdin, describes the love story as an "Achilles-Patroclus type of relationship."

"It was so powerful," Marinelli adds. "The story, for me, was so powerful. I fell in love with the story, with Joe and Nicky. I think that I was very lucky to have a partner like Marwan because he's a fantastic human being and he's a very beautiful guy. It's a story of the power of love."

It's also a relationship adapted directly from the comics, one Rucka told EW separately that he required of any cinematic adaptation.

"I wanted a happy queer couple,” he said. “I felt the audience needed to see, here are two people who, if not for this, probably wouldn’t have found each other. They have what they have because they have this gift. They meet killing each other, and only within that discovery that they can’t do it are they able to put down all this bulls— about religious hatred, about these cultural mandates, and look at each other and be like, ‘You know what? You are magical to me. My blessing isn’t that I get an eternal life. My blessing is I found you.’”

We'll see if the rest of Hollywood takes notes.

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The Old Guard

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