Loving team in Cannes, from left, Ruth Negga, Jeff Nichols and Joel Edgerton Photo: Richard Mowe
Loving director Jeff Nichols: 'I wanted to talk about two people in love in what could be one of most pure love stories in American history' Photo: Richard Mowe
Mildred and Richard Loving were an interracial couple whose marriage in their home state of Virginia was forbidden by law. It was taken up by civil rights lawyers and went all the way to the Supreme Court for the law finally to be changed.
Nichols who grew up in Arkansas and as youngster attended Little Rock Central High - where the desegregation crisis happened in 1957 - has a background of awareness in civil rights history but had not heard of this particular cause celebre.
“It is obvious that the social and political repercussions were of immense importance. But it seemed to me that the best way to get to the heart of it was to talk about these two people rather than the political ideas and laws,” Nichols told a media gathering.
Joel Edgerton plays Richard Loving in Jeff Nichols’ Cannes Competition entry Photo: Richard Mowe
He and his cast immersed themselves in an HBO documentary on the case by Nancy Buirski (The Loving Story). Nichols’s wife watched it too and then she gave him an ultimatum - if he did not make it as a narrative feature she would divorce him.
Richard died in 1975 and his wife passed away in 2008. Nichols discovered that only one of their three children, Peggy, was still alive, and arranged to meet her, accompanied by Negga. “I had tons of questions about their home life. But she was shy, tight-lipped and did not speak very much just like Richard. After she had read the script she began to cry because she said they were all gone. I had taken control of these people to write the script and I was aware of the challenge of honouring them. I hope it represents the essence of who these people were. I like to think that this will be the ‘quiet’ film of the year and make people think about the issues,” said Nichols.
He believes that the Supreme Court can only do so much. Nichols added: “It takes a much longer time for society to get it right. I am surprised to hear some of the reactions that continue to come out of some of these southern states.”
Ruth Negga plays Mildred Loving and describes her as 'an incredible woman'. Photo: Richard Mowe
Negga described Mildred as “an incredible woman. Jeff has done her and Richard justice. But they need a bigger platform because what they achieved was amazing.”
Loving has a US release slated for November