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Quvenzhané Wallis and Breathe Director Stefon Bristol on Their A-List Cast

Quvenzhané Wallis and Breathe Director Stefon Bristol on Their A-List Cast

More than a decade years after shooting her groundbreaking indie Beasts of the Southern Wild, Quvenzhané Wallis is back with another emotional feature about an apocalyptic society on the verge of collapse. Breathe is directed by Stefon Bristol, who previously helmed See You Yesterday on Netflix and will direct another film for the streamer that will be produced by none other than Spike Lee. But until then, Breathe is out now and features a handful of other household names, including Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson, Common, and Milla Jovovich.

The film explores a post-catastrophic Earth that is void of plants, where global oxygen levels have dropped to 5%. Instead of communicating properly and working together, the survivors fight over an “oxygen generator.” We recently caught up with Bristol and Wallis in separate interviews to learn more about their futuristic thriller, where a family’s underground existence is threatened by hostile intruders who want in on their safe space.

Joking with Common, Working with Jennifer Hudson, and Watching Sam Worthington Go Method

In Breathe, Wallis’ parents are played by acclaimed performers Common and Hudson. “I built relationships with them individually before we started working together. I met Common on set though, but I had been talking to Jennifer before that,” Wallis told MovieWeb. “I was still kind of starstruck before I actually met her on set. And then I met her, we started talking, and that soon flew away because we became really close and learned that we are pretty similar. And with Common, when we were on set, we just kind of joked around.”


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And then there’s Sam Worthington, who plays one of the hotheaded strangers in Breathe who wants to break into the family home belonging to Zora (Wallis), since her family is all set up underground with a sort of faux-paradise existence. Wallis shared what it was like working with the Avatar actor:

Sam Worthington was very much method
… And so with Sam being method and being so into his character, it forced you to do the same exact thing. It forced me to go into a character or a place where I’m scared, or I have a fear of what’s gonna happen next, when we start filming.”

Watching a post-apocalyptic feature like Breathe, you can’t help but catch shades of past classics that are set in a similar type of dystopian universe. “Children of Men was the movie I just keep referencing,” director Bristol told us, when thinking about inspirations behind his new film. “And Blade Runner 2049, there was a scene where Ryan Gosling’s character goes to Las Vegas, and it gets orange, the atmosphere… We wanted to make sure that our film felt like a different planet.”

Hoping to Work with Zendaya and John Boyega

Breathe builds unnerving tension throughout, so we were curious if star Wallis would be interested in continuing with these kinds of thriller-type projects. “I kind of dabbled in horror when I did American Horror Story,” she said. “I’ve been wanting to do a little bit of comedy, but I feel like I might not be able to act comedic… But I just like to try anything and everything. I love a good challenge.”

After working with a handful of A-listers on Breathe, one has to wonder who else Wallis would like to work with in Hollywood these days. “I’ve been saying this for a very, very, very long time that I want to work with Zendaya,” Wallis told us. “Also, some of my favorites have been, in seeing The Color Purple, Taraji P. Henson and Fantasia.”

Bristol also shared with us about who else he’d like to collaborate with. “John Boyega is a great actor. I don’t appreciate how they treated him and his character in Star Wars, and I think John is great,” he said. “And, you know, one actor I’d really love to work with one day, believe it or not, is Mark Ruffalo. Great actor.”


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How Beasts of the Southern Wild Shaped Quvenzhané Wallis

Wallis took a moment to look back on the movie that launched her career, Beasts of the Southern Wild. She shared some interesting insight into the life of an actor and what it’s like in between projects:

“I enjoyed myself and had so much fun on set of
, and then I didn’t go into award shows until four years later.
So I was nine when I went to the Oscars, but I was like five or six when I started filming
. So that was a gap

. And then after I did
, there was another gap. So when I was older, and I had that gap after
, I started to question, like, ‘Is this right for me? Should I keep doing this? Am I good enough?’ All that stuff.”

“And then I started working again,” continued Wallis. “But those gaps really be killing me, because it can make you doubt yourself when you end up having a lot of free time that you’re not used to. So you start trying to figure out what else are you passionate about. What else can you fill your time with? I don’t know, it’s one of those conflicting things with the career field that I’m in, because it’s always like, ‘Stop, Hold up, wait.’ And then you’re waiting for a while. And then they text you one morning or one day, and they’re like, ‘Actually, I need you here tomorrow.’ And it’s like, ‘Wait one second. I just was living this life.’ […] It’s discombobulating.”


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On Steve McQueen and Spike Lee

Following Beasts of the Southern Wild, Wallis would also go on to co-star in the Oscar-winning film 12 Years a Slave, from renowned director Steve McQueen. “When I met him, he was really fun,” said Wallis. “I loved to listen to him talk. I loved to see him on set. And he had a really nice, bright personality and aura and energy about him. But I unfortunately didn’t get to spend too much time with him, but from what I can remember, he was definitely nice and fun to be around.”

Bristol, meanwhile, has worked with an entirely different Academy Award-winning filmmaker: Spike Lee. “He is one of the best producers I’ve worked with,” said Bristol, adding:

He’s always able to allow me to do what I believe is right for my movies… I chased after him so he’d be able to be my mentor. And I didn’t ever think he’d become my producer partner. But here we are. And this is nice. I’m very humbled by it.

And the fun doesn’t stop there. Bristol will be directing another Netflix film, Gordon Hemingway & The Realm of Cthulhu, which Lee is producing. Until then, from Warner Bros. and Capstone Global, Breathe is now playing in theaters and on digital platforms like YouTube, Apple TV, Google Play, and through Prime Video below.

Watch Breathe

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