In 2013, I compiled a list of the most successful black directors of all time, according to box-office gross. Tyler Perry was number one at the time, followed by Tim Story. Their positions have since changed (Story is number one, followed by Perry, Antoine Fuqua, and F. Gary Gray), but Tim Story is still only number 56 among all directors, and the numbers overall still aren’t that encouraging.
That is starting to change. Black directors are now being attached to the kind of films that can put up huge numbers, like Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther (the box-office gross of Black Panther and Creed, alone, are likely to put Coogler in the top six, all time, for black directors). Hollywood has now added another black director into the superhero mix: Rick Famuyiwa, the director of the brilliant Dope, will be taking on The Flash with Ezra Miller next, having replaced Seth Grahame-Smith on the project.
Meanwhile, as of 2015, women only comprised 7 percent of the directors on the top 250 films. That, too, seems to be changing as female directors are now being considered more often for huge franchise films. Patty Jenkins will direct Wonder Woman (having replaced Michelle McClaren), and two more franchise films are now eyeing female directors.
First up, Niki Caro (Whale Rider) and Jennifer Kent (The Babadook) are apparently at the top of the list among directors for the Captain Marvel film, which has tapped Brie Larson as the title character (and Jennifer Kent would be particularly exciting). Marvel seems intent on having a female direct its first female superhero film.
Even more exciting from a cultural perspective is the fact that Susanne Bier is reportedly on the shortlist to replace Sam Mendes in the director’s chair on the next James Bond film. A woman directing historically one of the most sexist franchises of all time? That’s a thrilling thought (and all the more thrilling given how much it would get under the skin of MRAs).
“I would probably cut off my ear to do James Bond. But really, I would love to do any kind of action,” Bier said while out promoting her Tom Hiddleston miniseries The Night Manager. Based on that six-part thriller, she and Hiddleston would clearly make a great match. The Night Manager, based on a John LeCarre novel, had a certain Bond sensibility, minus the sexist undercurrent (and if they were to bring that goddess Elizabeth Debicki along, I doubt anyone would complain).
It’s not a sea change, by any stretch, and neither the Bond film nor Captain Marvel have officially hired female directors, but it’s an encouraging sign of what’s hopefully to come.