Stars pack Chicago Film Fest screening of ‘Widows’

"Widows" star Viola Davis talks to Reel Chicago at the Chicago International Film Festival

“Widows” star Viola Davis talks to Reel Chicago at the Chicago International Film Festival

Academy Award-winners
Viola Davis and
Steve McQueen
led a celebrity
cavalcade that
buzzed throughout the
AMC River East lobby


A number of stars from the big-budget action movie, Widows, lit up a red carpet celebration before the film’s screening for the Chicago International Film Festival at AMC River East on Saturday night.

Academy Award-winner Viola Davis, who plays widow-turned-badass Veronica Rawlings, came first. Academy Award-winner Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), who directed and co-wrote the script with Gone Girl scribe Gillian Flynn, followed closely behind.



Other cast members in attendance included Michelle Rodriguez, Liam Neeson, Cynthia Erivo, and Bryan Tyree Henry. Producer Iain Canning and script co-writer Gillian Flynn completed the lineup.

An action heist thriller filmed and set in Chicago, Widows is the story of “four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities,” according to IMDb. Led by Davis’ character, Veronica, the women “take fate into their own hands, and conspire to forge a future on their own terms.”

A throng of reporters, cameras, lights, and microphones heightened the thrill for nearly an hour before the red carpet began. Tightly packed into a space reserved for media, they intensified a buzz that ran throughout the gargantuan lobby.



When asked about portraying Veronica, Davis’ response indicated that she clearly enjoyed the role. “The play-acting thing was good,” she told Reel Chicago. “Running, wearing the mask, being with the other girls.”

Critics like the film, too. NPR’s Linda Holmes wrote that Davis’ performance is “so fierce and specific that you will want to see her make 20 more action movies.” Time Out’s Joshua Rothkopf praised the story for containing a “purely pleasurable piece of transformation.”

In a wider perspective, the abundantly female cast of Widows pulled off much more than a revenge heist. Besides providing an hour-and-a-half of top-notch entertainment, they successfully reinforced the fact that any serious feature film must not only include but also celebrate women and people of color.

According to director Steve McQueen, this is best accomplished by “by telling the truth.”

“It’s that simple: (women) don’t have to be the Hollywood archetype of what a woman is,” he continued. “They can actually be a woman and do the things that women normally do.”

For Davis, those things include getting mad. Her character takes the quality to glorious lengths in the film, and she believes that the example should resonate outside of the theater.

“I think there’s legitimacy to anger,” she explained. “It tells you when someone has crossed the line … and you’re certainly seeing that in the zeitgeist now.”



Davis spent an unusually long but totally appreciated amount of time with each reporter in line, but no one was complaining. Gracious, sincere, and engaging, she listened to questions with absolute concentration, carefully considered her responses, and then answered with a compelling and natural charm.

As a result, most members of the press were unable to interview the breathtaking group of celebrities on hand. But Reel Chicago did find a moment to speak with Michelle Rodriguez, who eagerly credited everyone but herself for the film’s success.

“I’m not Viola Davis,” the actress exclaimed. “She’s like a queen.”