Jeffrey Wright on Batman 2 Script & Son’s Reaction to American Fiction

Jeffrey Wright is finally an Oscar nominee. The actor’s storied career had already brought him under the direction of masters such as Sidney Lumet, Ang Lee, and most recently, newcomer Cord Jefferson in the satirical dramedy “American Fiction.” But with his Oscar nom, Wright says he feels more supported than ever by the Hollywood community and studios.

“I’ve never had this level of support behind a project that I was central to from the powers that be, the business side of our industry,” he tells Variety‘s Awards Circuit Podcast. “I’ve never had it until now. I’m really grateful for that. We’re here now, and I’m so pleased the film has been recognized across the board. With a small movie and 26 days of filming, our budget was probably the catering budget for the last Bond movie I did.”

In this episode of the award-winning Variety Awards Circuit Podcast, Wright discusses his experience making “American Fiction” and how it helped him through the grief of losing his mother. In addition, he shares some hints and information about “The Batman 2,” where he will reprise his role as Commissioner Gordon, alongside star Robert Pattinson, in Matt Reeves’ eagerly anticipated superhero sequel.

Also on the episode, the Roundtable gives its picks for this weekend’s SAG Awards. Listen below.

Claire Folger/Orion Pictures

Read: Variety’s Awards Circuit for the latest Oscars predictions in all categories.

After premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival, Amazon MGM/Orion’s “American Fiction” quickly became an Oscar contender, winning the coveted TIFF Audience Award. Based on the novel “Erasure” by Percival Everett, the film follows author Thelonious “Monk” Ellison, a frustrated novelist who is fed up with the industry profiting from “Black” entertainment that relies on tired and offensive tropes. To prove his point, Monk writes an outlandish “Black” book that propels him to the heart of hypocrisy and madness. The film is a timely commentary as Black content continues to face challenges in the entertainment industry. It is nominated for five Academy Awards: best picture, actor (Wright), supporting actor (Sterling K. Brown), adapted screenplay (Jefferson) and original score (Laura Karpman).

The cast also includes Emmy nominee Tracee Ellis Ross, John Ortiz, Adam Brody, Issa Rae, Erika Alexander, and Leslie Uggams.

Wright, 57, has been one of the most respected actors for decades. He won a Tony Award for his role as Belize in Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America.” He reprised the same role for the HBO miniseries adaptation, adding an Emmy Award to his mantle, one of the few actors to win a Tony and Emmy for the same role.

Wright says he has been spending time thinking about this monumental moment in his career. He also thinks about what his late mother would have thought about the Oscar nom. Raised by his mother and his aunt after his father passed away when he was very young, Wright says, “I have no memory of him. My mother created everything for me. She was the archetype of the opportunities that were presented in my life. She was also my loudest and most energetic unpaid publicist.”

Wright describes shooting the film as “a process of rebuilding after the void that was there” following his mother’s passing. When he screened the movie for his family, his son remarked that he saw a lot of Wright in Monk and called it “a beautiful homage to Grandma.”

“It’s a gift,” he says, struggling to maintain his composure. “I guess the question could be, what would she do if she were here now? But in some ways, this movie exists because she isn’t. At least not in body, so here we are. I’m super proud of it, and like everything else positive in my life, it does not come without what she invested in me, which was full of her body and work.”

Regarding his upcoming role in “The Batman 2,” Wright humorously offers little-to-no details: “Here’s the beginning, middle, and end laid out for you,” he begins. “I have not read the script. I have not received the script. I’m waiting patiently. But I’ll tell you what? As soon as I get it, I’ll call you. I’ll send a copy right over to you. On the off chance that Matt Reeves hears this, the hairs on the back of his neck are going to stand up.”

Getting serious about the secrecy surrounding a script for a superhero project, he says, “Man, that thing is on lockdown. I think I had a paper version of the script for the first one, but they wanted to hold on to it after we were finished [shooting]. We would get these ‘Mission Impossible’ self-destructing files sent to us. It’s hardcore. It’s like five-step authentication.”

Variety’s “Awards Circuit” podcast, hosted by Clayton Davis, Jenelle Riley, Jazz Tangcay, Emily Longeretta and Michael Schneider, who also produces, is your one-stop source for lively conversations about the best in film and television. Each week, “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top film and TV talent and creatives, discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines, and much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post weekly.

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