Just as his star was beginning to rise, Nate Parker informed his agent he wouldn’t be accepting any more roles until he could play Nat Turner. And while actors regularly make outlandish demands, Parker was serious about his ultimatum.
“I was willing to stick to that — and if it was my lot to never act again, so be it,” he explained in a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
Parker became obsessed with Turner’s powerful story in college because, “There was such a shortage of heroism in respect to the history that [he] was taught” in school. However, the Beyond the Lights star was dismayed when he learned “one of the greatest men to walk the soil in this country was a man who grew up and lived and breathed and fought less than 100 miles from where [he] grew up,” and yet he hadn’t heard about him until he took African-American studies classes in university.
After learning about the revolutionary, Parker spent years working on a script about Turner’s life and how he led one of the largest slave rebellions in history. Once he became determined to make the film, Parker invested $100,000 of his own money to hire a production designer and scout for locations before seeking funding from others.
Soon, former NBA player Michael Finley and San Antonio Spurs star Tony Parker came on board to fund the project, and then Jason Michael Berman of Mandalay Pictures and producer Kevin Turen of Phantom Four gathered even more investors. Finally, Aaron L. Gilbert of Bron Studios contributed the remaining amount, bringing the total to $10 million.
Parker–who wrote, directed, and starred in Birth of a Nation—spent 27 days shooting the emotionally charged film, which will premiere at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival this year.
Though the film is set in the 1800s, with the Black Lives Matter movement in full swing, the subject matter couldn’t be more timely.
“Resistance lives in the air in this current moment,” Parker explain. “Anyone who sees this film should leave the theater and feel compelled to be a change factor with respect to relations that are taking place in this country. But also, they should be proud to be an American. This country was built on rebellion. So when we talk about American heroes, people that fought against an oppressive force, I think that it’s a no-brainer that Nat Turner exists in that conversation.”
We absolutely can’t wait to see it!