By Mike Fleming Jr | Deadline Hollywood
Miramax Presents The Film That Lit My Fuse is a Deadline video series that aims to provide an antidote to headlines about industry uncertainty by swinging the conversation back to the creative ambitions, formative influences and inspirations of some of today’s great screen artists.
Every installment asks the same five questions. This week’s subject is Justin Simien. The Houston-born director today opens his first big budget studio film in Haunted Mansion, the Disney narrative adaptation of its venerable theme park ride. It’s the second time the Mouse has haunted this terrain, counting the 2003 film that starred Eddie Murphy. Simien’s film stars LaKeith Stanfield, Rosario Dawson, Owen Wilson, Tiffany Haddish, Danny DeVito, Jamie Lee Curtis and Jared Leto.
The Houston-born Simien got his foot in the door in Hollywood working on the publicity side while he made short films. One of those was Dear White People, inspired by his experience matriculating at Chapman U, a predominantly white college. He turned to crowdfunding to make a Dear White People feature, and was rewarded by winning the US Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent at 2014 Sundance. He turned it into a series for Lionsgate and Netflix, lasting four seasons. Simien wrote, directed and wrote songs for Bad Hair, a 2020 horror comedy about a woman who gets a murderous hair weave. The film premiered at Sundance and was acquired by Hulu and Neon. He’s attached to showrun a Disney+ series based on the Billy Dee Williams Star Wars character Lando Calrissian. Here is how Simien found his creative mojo.