Nia DaCosta on ‘Candyman’ and the Power of Terrifying Legends

So, I try not to read anything because the bigger the things I do, the more pressure it is. The pressure can be so distracting and overwhelming, and it can stop you from doing well and consume the process. And, probably to a fault, I can be a bit self-deprecating [Laughs]. I was prepared for no one to care that I was a part of it. I didn’t really think about it much until people on Twitter were like, “Excuse me, it’s Nia DaCosta’s ‘Candyman.’” I was like, “Oh, that’s really sweet.” I’m sure if it were another female filmmaker, I would have been doing the same thing. Like, “Hey, you should probably be talking about the woman making the movie, not just the guy who’s more famous.”

Speaking of navigating pressure, I would imagine taking on “Candyman” was daunting because fans are so protective of it. Did you have any hesitation?

I was really excited because Jordan Peele was co-writer and a producer — no-brainer. So, I felt really safe in the process because I’m a huge fan of his. But then, of course, reality sets in. It’s not even, like, “Oh, the fans really want. …” It’s a studio film. They have what they wanted to do, which is basically make a trillion dollars and be critically acclaimed. I think that was when I was like, “Oh, no.” Then you have the community that I made the movie for, which is my community in a macro sense — the Black community. But then in the micro sense, a community I’m not a part of, the Cabrini-Green community. So, there are a lot of people that you want to do well for, and that can be daunting. But I think I just wanted to end with an open heart and humility as a fan of the original “Candyman,” as well as a respect for what we’re portraying. I have to have faith that would guide me to do the best I could.

What kind of research did you do on Cabrini-Green?

A book that was the first touchstone for me was “High-Risers: Cabrini-Green and the Fate of American Public Housing” by Ben Austen. That was really amazing, because I like to have some historical point of view, especially with what the movie was about — the history and what makes history repeat itself and the history of race. Then we had an amazing historian and researcher on the film. And absolutely going into the community, starting out with just standing and walking around, then talking to people who live there, and the people who had to leave, and hear their stories.

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