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Steve McQueen Reveals John Boyega’s Speech at Black Lives Matter Rally Inspired Him to Reshoot the Actor’s Scenes for His ‘Small Axe’ Film Anthology

A decade ago, director Steve McQueen embarked on a journey into making his “Small Axe” anthology. Five stories — “Mangrove,” “Lovers Rock,” “Red, White, and Blue,” “Alex Wheatle,” and “Education” — unbeknownst to him, would eventually and unfortunately depict almost a mirror image of today’s social climate. Inspired by real-life events, the award-winning filmmaker tells the accounts of ordinary people overcoming injustices and police brutality in the West Indian community of London.

John Boyega, the movie’s lead actor in “Red, White and Blue,” portrays real-life figure Leroy Logan, a member of the London Metropolitan Police Force, who both witnessed and experienced firsthand the organization’s fundamental racism.

(L) Steve McQueen and (R) John Boyega. Photo courtesy of Amazon.

After authorities brutally beat his dad, Logan leaves behind a successful career as he goes on a quest to dismantle the system that he so much respected but was betrayed by and the complex struggles that followed.

The premise of the film was not uncharted territory for the British actor. He made headlines this past June after giving an emotional speech in London’s Hyde Park on the inequalities minorities endured worldwide. The demonstration came as a show of solidarity following the explosion of protests that spread in the U.S. following the death of George Floyd.

McQueen spoke to Atlanta Black Star about his unique experience working with Boyega and how his ongoing display of activism played an intricate role in the film. 

“What is interesting about John was that speech he made during the Black Lives Matter march for the death of George Floyd happened in the same making of ‘Red, White, and Blue,’ ” the filmmaker revealed. McQueen became so inspired by Boyega’s courage during the protests that they “came back afterward to do some additional scenes” as a result of the star’s dissent. He added, “So that real-life integrated into his artistic life.” 

The “12 Years a Slave” director further divulged into the distinctiveness of Boyega’s crusade. The filmmaker said he would even “equate” the actor’s experience during his infamous “Star Wars” conflict to that of his character Leroy’s struggles.

Steve McQueen. Photo courtesy of Amazon.

In September, Boyega accused Disney of positioning him as the first black lead in the trilogy’s first film, only to later “push him aside” in later movies, while his white co-star got “all the nuance.” 

“These were two poster boys to a situation,” the “Shame” director explained. “In the film, he talks about it. He becomes a poster boy, Leroy Logan, as John did in ‘Star Wars.’ So they’ve become these figures in different time frames. One in the ’80s and one in 2020, and their trajectories are stunted. And they are seen as poster boys, and it’s interesting how art imitates life.” McQueen notes, “Both of them, they want to integrate to make a change, and both of them are disappointed. It was Spooky in a way.”

“Red, White, and Blue” stars John Boyega, Steve Toussaint, newcomers Tyrone Huntley, Nathan Vidal, and Jaden Oshenye. Courttia Newland and Steve McQueen co-wrote the film. The first movie in the series, “Mangrove,” is scheduled to premiere on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, Nov. 20, with the rest premiering one week apart. In the meantime, be sure to check out the trailer down below.

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