‘The Old Guard’ Cast on Working With the First-Ever Black Woman to Direct a Major Action Movie

The Old Guard, Netflix’s recently-released action film, tells the story of centuries-old immortal warriors who are trying to leave the world a better place. The film stars Charlize Theron, Kiki Layne, and Chiwetel Ejiofor and was directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (previously best-known for the 2000 film favorite Love and Basketball and 2014’s Beyond the Lights). Prince-Bythewood’s role actually made history; The Old Guard is the first big-budget ($70 million) comic-book film to be directed by a Black woman. What did the cast of the Netflix movie have to say about working with Prince-Bythewood?

Gina Prince-Bythewood discusses her 2020 Netflix film ‘The Old Guard’

The Old Guard: Charlize Theron and KiKi Layne
Charlize Theron and Kiki Layne in The Old Guard | Aimee Spinks/Netflix

In an interview with Collider, Prince-Bythewood shared her feelings about the film release of The Old Guard.

“This has been two years of my life,” she said. “but I am both nervous and excited to put it out into the world.”

Prince-Bythewood revealed she has always loved action movies herself. The filmmaker always held out hope that one day, she would be able to bring her strengths to the genre. She praised the work of the stars of The Old Guard, too, saying: “70% of directing is casting…every actor that I got elevated the character and the story.”

What did the cast of ‘The Old Guard’ think of the first Black woman to direct a major action movie?

Charlize Theron, a producer/star of the movie, plays the character, Andy, in The Old Guard. In a recent Hindustan Times article, she explained her thoughts on the theory that has been floated (mainly by men in the industry) that women just aren’t interested in making action films

“I think that it is a huge misconception,” Theron told the publication. She expanded:

A good storyteller is a good storyteller, and once we start trying to confine that to a certain sex, it becomes incredibly sexist, problematic, and it’s not true. Gina had never done an action film. She obviously had a passion to want to explore this genre. And it just goes to show; if you have a real passion and an urge to want to work in this genre, women are just as capable.

Gina Prince-Blythewood, director of The Old Guard
Director Gina Prince-Bythewood at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival | Jeff Vespa/WireImage

Chiwetel Ejiofor played CIA operative James Copley in The Old Guard. Ejiofor told The Hollywood Reporter his thoughts on working with Prince-Blythewood:

I think that Gina, Charlize, and KiKi [Layne] approached action and violence in a completely different way. They approached it as part of storytelling, as part of engagement with narrative and engagement with character. And in that way, it’s not like the film stops and then you have an action sequence. It’s like the film continues through the action sequences.

Other cast members chime in on the Netflix movie’s director

In The Old Guard, KiKi Layne (from If Beale Street Could Talk) plays Nile, a young marine who is apparently killed in action in Afghanistan, but inexplicably returns to life. The reluctant new recruit to the immortal squad initially prefers to return home to her family. Andy (AKA Theron) must convince her to join the team.

In an interview with Variety, Layne shared explained her experience on the Netflix film:

The opportunity to work with Prince-Bythewood — that was what first got me excited about the project… She’s very committed to really getting to the hearts of these characters, and in the depths of their experiences and why they do the things they do, and how they got to where they are.

On a more personal level, The Old Guard actress found the director to be someone she could lean on and look to on the large action set. 

What did Greg Rucka, ‘The Old Guard‘ screenwriter, think of the director?

Greg Rucka the screenwriter of The Old Guard (as well as the author of the graphic novels on which the 2020 movie was based), also explained his thoughts in an interview on Mulderville.

Her passion for the project just drove me, was energizing, exciting and made the script better and better,” Rucka said of Prince-Bythewood.

The Old Guard cast
Marwan Kenzari as Joe, Matthias Schoenaerts as Booker, Charlize Theron as Andy, Luca Marinelli as Nicky, Kiki Layne as Nile in The Old Guard | AIMEE SPINKS/NETFLIX

‘The Old Guard’: Chiwetel Ejiofor Reveals What ‘Intrigued’ Him About His Character

Although The Old Guard director was initially not familiar with Rucka’s graphic novel, she respected his work and characters, especially the two strong female leads. Prince-Bythewood fell in love with the elements that kept surprising her as she read the story.  

As the filming progressed, Prince-Bythewood described how closely she worked with the screenwriter to Fortune.

“Greg was on my hip,” the director explained. “I love that dude so much… He and I had an incredible collaboration. I respect him so much and he had a mutual respect for me.”

The Old Guard is now streaming on Netflix.