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Local boy Steve McQueen was the toast of an unusually toasty autumnal London on Wednesday evening as his heist thriller Widows raised the curtain on the 62nd edition of the London Film Festival in Leicester Square.
The Oscar winner, whose previous three films have all bowed in the LLF (although not in the opening-night slot), brought along his ensemble of Widows stars, including Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez and fellow Londoner Daniel Kaluuya, alongside his co-writer, Gillian Flynn.
While Chicago might be the backdrop for Widows’ action, there are other links to the English capital beyond McQueen and Kaluuya. The film is based on the hit 1983 ITV series written by acclaimed British author Lynda La Plante set in London, with support from Film4.
Due to the refurbishment of the Odeon cinema, the usual destination for LFF openers and gala screenings, the red carpet activity took place across Leicester Square at Cineworld. (The film was also screened simultaneously at the temporary Embankment Garden Cinema by the side of the Thames.)
“If you had asked me back in December to write my first choice of film to open the festival, I would have written Widows,” said LFF artistic director Tricia Tuttle, introducing the film. “It’s very topical and timely, something that tackles race, class and gender.”
McQueen, meanwhile, gave a shoutout to Sue Bruce-Smith, the hugely well-respected Film4 deputy director, whom he said had worked with him since his very first feature, Hunger. “This screening is for you, Sue,” he said to Bruce-Smith, sitting in the audience.
Running until October 21, the 62nd LFF continues the event’s tradition of showcasing the best of the fall’s other top-tier festivals. Alongside Widows, which debuted in Toronto, this year’s offerings include Yorgos Lanthimos’ Oscar-tipped The Favourite; Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight follow-up, If Beale Street Could Talk; Alfonso Cuaron’s Venice-winning Roma; and Mike Leigh’s period epic Peterloo, which is being screened in Manchester in an LFF first.
The festival is set to close with the world premiere of Stan & Ollie, eOne’s Laurel and Hardy biopic starring Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly.
Unlike previous years, the British Film Institute has chosen not to hand out its highest honor, the BFI Fellowship, something that has become a mainstay of recent editions. The awards ceremony has been scrapped in favor of public screenings of the winning titles, which will only be announced just before the films start.
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