“Not every movie can be Suicide Squad,” said journalist Peter Travers in his introduction to David Oyelowo, who attended a special NY Film Critics Series screening Monday evening in Times Square to support his film, Five Nights in Maine, which he also produced.
The “Selma” star had to catch a plane so he participated in a brief Q&A before the screening. (Also attending was director Maris Curran, who bears a likeness to Cameron Diaz, and co-star Rosie Perez.)
The indie drama stars Oyelowo as Sherwin, an Atlanta man trying to deal with his grief after his beloved wife Fiona (Hani Furstenberg) dies in a car crash. Dianne Wiest plays Lucinda, Fiona’s estranged, cancer-ridden mother, and Rosie Perez plays her attentive nurse.
Oyelowo has a long list of credits, especially in his native England. He was robbed a few years back of an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Martin Luther King Jr. in the Ava DuVernay film “Selma.” Oyelowo lives in Los Angeles with his actress wife, Jessica, and their four kids.
Oyelowo recently became an American citizen. When Travers congratulated him, Oyelowo said, “It feels very important to vote, especially this year.”
Oyelowo said the script for “Five Nights in Maine” came to him in a way that typically makes directors and actors cringe; Curran handed him the script after a screening at Sundance and said she wrote it especially for him.
“Yeah, very good way to get an actor to read your script. It really works, especially if you look like Maris.”
“Five Nights in Maine” focuses on the story of the trip Sherwin makes to visit Lucinda, a difficult, cold woman, who lives in rural Maine where she is gravely ill. It’s never clear why Sherwin visits Lucinda – even he’s not sure – although probably to seek closure or connection. “The only thing we have in common is arguably the biggest thing in both our lives,” Oyelowo said. They are two completely different people sharing a house in rural Maine, “navigating their differences.”
Oyelowo’s performance is notable for its stillness and many close-ups that register every emotion on his expressive, beautiful face. Travers noted that Sherwin was a man of few words.
“That’s the thing that’s truly amazing about film as a visual media, is that you can communicate things without words that you can’t do in the same way in the theater and other mediums,” said Oyelowo. “There’s something about a screen this size that means that you can really find your way into the spiritual component of the character” and “if it’s fake in any way, if it’s truthful, I think the audience can pick it up.”
Asked if there was a moment in the film that particularly resonated with him, Oyelowo said it was when his character says, “She took so much with her.’ And I remember doing that line in that take that was used in the movie, and I think that’s the moment where I felt most the blur, the thing the character and myself, the thought, oh the hideous thought of my wife no longer walking the planet. She would take a massive, a massive chunk of everything I am and it would be irreplaceable. So for me, that line goes to the heart of what makes bereavement so tough. It’s that you know that your own life will never be the same again.”
Oyelowo spoke of the run of four films he’s starred in directed by women, including the upcoming Mira Nair film “Queen of Katwe” and Amma Assante’s “A United Kingdom.”
Before Oyelowo ran off, Travers joked, “There will be some people holding scripts for you on your way out.”
“That’s why I’m leaving immediately after this. There’s no planes, no movies,” said Oyelowo as he practically sprinted to the exit.