Though the original “Candyman” came out when she was only 2 years old, it had a big impact on Nia DaCosta. As a kid she would play the game — saying his name in the mirror five times. So when she was asked to pitch herself as director to Jordan Peele’s Monkey Paw Prods. for its upcoming “spiritual sequel,” DaCosta was more than ready.
The new version expands on the mythology of the Candyman, a Black man tortured and murdered for loving a white woman, and further explores the violence brought upon people of color. Pushed from last year due to the pandemic, it’s now slated for an August release.
And while the new version is plenty scary, DaCosta was firm about how certain scenes would be portrayed. “From the beginning, I was very clear about my tolerance for violence against Black people,” she says. “I love gore, I love body horror, I love all that stuff. When it’s about enhancing the psychological terror, go for it.”
In the past, people of color didn’t always fare well in horror films; as someone who grew up loving fantasy, DaCosta admits that could be frustrating. “The lack of imagination for people of color in such an imaginative world is disappointing,” she says. “We can imagine dragons and zombies and all this amazing stuff, and people of color just don’t exist, or even women being not a princess in the genre.” DaCosta’s film puts them front and center, led by Yahya Abdul Mateen II as a visual artist who begins investigating the urban legend around the Candyman.
DeCosta attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, one of the few places at the time where she could still shoot on film. Her script for “Little Woods,” a crime thriller, was chosen for the 2015 Sundance Screenwriters and Directors Lab. Starring Tessa Thompson and Lily James, the feature premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2018, where it won the Nora Ephron Award.
Up next, DeCosta is helming the sequel to “Captain Marvel,” about which, “I can’t say anything,” she notes with a laugh.
Agency: CAA, Casarotto Ramsay & Associates
Management: Management 360
Legal: Del, Shaw, Moonves, Tanaka, Finkelstein & Lezcano