Madeleine L’Engle’s novel A Wrinkle in Time has been a YA mainstay for decades, but almost as long the book resisted adaptation to the big screen despite the efforts of dedicated producers. Now, over fifty years after publication, Ava DuVernay’s film adaptation is nearly here.
This undertaking isn’t the work of just one person, of course. It took an army to get the film to the screen. We want to highlight a few of those who worked to ensure it stands apart from all the other science fiction out there.
Note: While minor spoilers for A Wrinkle in Time follow, this info is all from interviews given for promotional purposes.
Producer Catherine Hand
Catherine Hand is the person most responsible for making this movie happen. She’s been wanting to adapt A Wrinkle in Time to film since she was a child. Walt Disney died in 1966, four years after the first publication of the novel, and Hand told IGN “I was so upset that he had died and could not make a A Wrinkle in Time movie, and star me as Meg.”
So Hand set out to make the movie, and thirty years after being in the business long enough to actually try making it for real, here we are. Hand got the rights with the help of All in the Family producer Norman Lear after clearing the idea with Alan Horn – now chief of Disney. Hand even grew close to L’Engel thanks to her efforts to make the movie.
Screenwriter Jennifer Lee, Director Ava DuVernay
Jennifer Lee, who wrote Frozen, came on to script A Wrinkle in Time following early work from Jeff Stockwell. She simplified the story in a few ways that were important for the screen translation, notably removing two younger characters, siblings of main character Meg, who didn’t fit in the screen version.
From Lee’s script, Ava DuVernay made a lot of subsequent creative decisions. One big choice was to set the film in DuVernay’s native southern California and to avoid making, as the filmmaker has quipped, “a shiny, bright Disney movie.” When Disney invited journalists to set, Reese Witherspoon said part of what interested her in DuVernay’s version was a choice to veer away from classic Disney, and a classic version of the novel. DuVernay told her “I’m going to deviate a lot. I want to have the house in Downtown LA. I want the kids to be all different ethnicities. I want kids to watch this movie and know that anything’s possible,” according to Witherspoon.
DuVernay has also noted that the film doesn’t have a “traditional Disney” look, but that the studio has “been really great in allowing me aesthetic latitude to really bring my filmmaking style into it, which is awesome, and they never said no to anything.” The director got to put her choices into action, whether they were in casting, crew choices, or the look of the film.
Costume Designer Paco Delgado
Paco Delgado has two Oscar nominations (for The Danish Girl and Les Misérables) but he’s gone out into the reaches of imagination for the unusual designs in A Wrinkle in Time. He curated wardrobe collections for the “modern” characters like Meg and her father, played by Chris Pine, and then designed four costumes for each of the three Mrs. characters played by Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling. He also designed for Red (pictured above) and Zach Galifianakis’s character the Happy Medium.
For Red, Pee-wee Herman was an inspiration. And Delgado has said “then I thought obviously about Pinocchio and then I thought about another singer of the eighties called Klaus Nomi.” Delgado brought ideas about planets and culture to the three Mrs., giving Winfrey’s character a touch of many different cultures, with her costume hardened almost into armor by the idea of representing energy and light in her designs.
Hair Designer Kimberly Kimble
Every image from this film, especially those featuring the three Mrs, emphasizes that hair is a huge part of the movie’s creative expression. Kimberly Kimble, who recently worked with Beyonce on Lemonade, designed the hair for A Wrinkle in Time, which meant experimenting with and creating a whole collection of wigs and elaborate hairpieces.
Kimble has said “These women are cosmic universal beings, so when you see them, they’re not your average hairstyles.” She calls Winfrey’s character “the galactic diva” who required hair that is “bold with this mixture of metallics – like blondes, golds, platinum and silver” that also parallel her costume design.
There’s CG in the film, certainly, but the wigs are great examples of hand-crafted magic. “It took us quite a bit to build a lot of wigs and hair pieces,” Kimble said, “some by hand, and we used custom wig makers to create these pieces.”
Production Designer Naomi Shohan
Naomi Shohan has a wide array of experience, from Ben Hur to Constantine to Training Day. She brought a strange sort of geometric realism to the film, along with methods that prioritize real sets.
Shouhan told Collider “I’m not a fan of movies that just rely on CG and make the world CG… my personal preference is that things be grounded and a little more painterly than CG. What you can do with CG sometimes gets so out of bounds. You can do anything, but why are you doing that anything? What is it grounded in? We just wanted it to be really grounded.”
So even when the characters journey to other worlds, they end up in places that are not like our Earth, but feature real elements that are familiar enough to give the action a sense of place. Chris Pine told IGN, “When I’m captured, I’m in this very, really kind of, super, very geometric, architectural… it’s almost like a contemporary art instillation piece. It’s beautiful… The space for me is an instillation of all of that celestial geometry. It’s hard to articulate any of it but something made sense about it and it was very beautiful to me.”
A Wrinkle in Time opens on March 9.