EXCLUSIVE: Barbara Broccoli, one of the teams of producers behind the powerhouse film Till, about the extraordinary efforts of Maimie Till Mobley to find justice after the lynching of her 14-year-old son Emmett Louis Till, for whistling at Carolyn Bryant, a white woman, by white supremacists in Mississippi in 1955, told Deadline, that audiences must seek out the movie: ”This is not a time for us to look away.”
Broccoli said Emmett, who was visiting his cousins, was lynched and murdered for whistling at Carolyn Bryant, a white woman, keeping shop at Bryant’s Grocery & Meat Market in Money, Mississippi. A few days a group of men dragged the boy from his uncle’s home. Days later his mutilated body was discovered in the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi.
Citing fellow producers Keith Beauchamp, Whoopi Goldberg, Thomas Levine, Michael Reilly and Fred Zollo, Broccoli added, ”This is an important film to me, to all of us.”
The film, directed by Chinonye Chukwu (Clemency), was receiving its world premiere screening Saturday night at the New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center, ”will open people’s eyes,” Broccoli said following a private screening of Till in London this week, ”I pray that people see it,” added the producer who controls Eon Productions, with Michael G.Wilson, home of the James Bond franchise.
Broccoli was worried, she said because the racial climate in the United States ”feels worse now than it did twenty years ago. A lot of it is Donald Trump, isn’t it? He’s made it so that people can openly deny this happened.”
She explained that ”Keith Beauchamp was the producer who basically spent his whole adult life researching this, it’s his scholarship that has gotten us to this point. He was very close to Maimie and this film is about what really happened. He and Fred and Tom, and then Whoopi and I got involved and then we brought Chinonye on having seen Clemency, and she’s done a magnificent job.”
The casting of Danielle Deadwyler (The Harder They Fall) to portray Maimie Till Mobley was a proud moment, Broccoli noted. “And Danielle is truly extraordinary. She sent in a tape to the casting director, we had lots and lots of submissions. Chinonye sent me a note that said: ‘Have you seen the tapes today? Call me.’ I was actually in LA and I called her and said, ’Oh, my God’. I think we said ‘Oh, my God’ in unison, actually. We were sold on Danielle and what was fantastic was the reaction at the studios. Alana Mayo who runs Orion Pictures and Pam Abdy and Michael De Luca who financed the film; when we said that we wanted someone who was not an established name, then they saw her there was no argument about casting her. They supported this film 100 percent. And we’ve had 100 percent support from MGM and UAR [United Artists Releasing] who are doing a great job, and tremendous support from Universal,” Broccoli said.
Sighing, Broccoli continued, “Getting to the point where we got it to them was a long journey but once we gave it to them it was instantaneous. They just wanted to make this film … because it was Orion which has a long history of making films that stand for something.”
The film’s propelled by the power of a mother’s love and the power of a mother seeking the truth of what happened to her teenage son, portrayed with stand-out skill by Jalyn Hall (Shaft). ”Chinonye wanted to focus the story on Mrs. Mobley… and was very adamant, rightfully so, that she didn’t want to show the violence of Emmett being killed. But, obviously, the aftermath was important for people to see. It was important to show what had been done to Emmett’s body and that’s what Mrs. Mobley did when she displayed her son’s tortured body in an open casket. ‘Let the world see what I’ve seen,’” Broccoli explained.
Also, said Broccoli, the director wanted to start and end the film “in a place of joy. And she wanted to show the love, and the resilience, and the complexity that Mrs. Mobley was a middle-class woman living in Chicago with a great job; she had a life and had friends and had not set out to become a Civil Rights activist. And when you think of what happened to her in just one month: it’s a month from the abduction to finding out about the murder and then having to testify in Mississippi. It’s extraordinary what she achieved. She’s a real hero and people do not know her story. She goes beyond what anyone can even imagine doing; standing up to the system, to all those [white] men, and putting her grief aside for the greater good. Pain to purpose. That can’t happen without a great performance. Danielle provides that,” Broccoli declared.
Clearly, Broccoli is heavily invested in Till, both emotionally and practically. She claimed that some states are banning the ”teaching of the history in a whole bunch of places. But we’re opening wide [October 14 in the U.S.] and we’re showing it at the London Film Festival on October 15 and 16. We have a huge school program, a huge program with schools and colleges. People think they know the name and they think they know the story, but they don’t really know the story.”
Broccoli mentioned a key scene in Till when a relative informs Mrs. Mobley that she can’t look at Emmett’s disfigured corpse in an open casket at the Roberts Temple Church of God in the Bronzeville district of Chicago. ”Auntie Lizzie says, ‘I can’t look,’ and Maimie says ‘We must.’ And so must we. This is not a time for us to look away,” Broccoli insisted.
Whoopi Goldberg also features in Till as Mrs. Mobley’s mother Alma Carthan; Frankie Faison portrays her father, John Carthan. Civil Rights giant Medgar Evers is portrayed by British actor Tosin Cole, his wife Myrlie Evers is played by Jayme Lawson. ”Medgar’s wife says in the film that she worries. It sends chills knowing what was to happen,” Broccoli said, referring to Medgar Evers’s assassination eight years later in 1963. Haley Bennett plays Carolyn Bryant.
Repeating her mantra, Broccoli said, “No, this is not a time to look away.”