How 'Candyman' Director Nia DaCosta Went From Low-Budget Horror To The Marvel Cinematic Universe

Nia DaCosta is blazing a trail through Hollywood and we're just grateful to stand in her dust. In a matter of five years, DaCosta has gone from indie darling to blockbuster director, with two upcoming releases based on major studio properties.

Her 2018 thriller Little Woods had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, a haunting debut that told a fraught and grim tale of sisterhood. The film was met with critical acclaim and rightfully put DaCosta on track for further success. Her upcoming projects now include the Universal horror film Candyman, a successor to the acclaimed 1992 horror flick of the same name, and The Marvels, a sequel to the MCU's Captain Marvel.

It's been full steam ahead for DaCosta since her directorial debut, and in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, she reflected on her journey as a filmmaker. Although she found success at Tribeca with Little Woods, she was initially concerned about what it could spell out for the rest of her career. She said,

"Sometimes you go to Sundance and there's a female filmmaker and they're like, 'It's been 12 years since their last film!' I was like, 'Yikes, I don't want that to be me. I also didn't want to get stuck as being seen as someone who just makes small movies. It's really easy for that to happen when you're a filmmaker — especially a female filmmaker."

Nia DaCosta's Candyman

Thankfully, that wasn't the case. A year later, she signed on to direct Candyman and developed the script alongside Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfield. The original Candyman debuted when DaCosta was only 2 years old, but still cemented its place in her mind.

"[As a kid], I remember I was like, 'Oh my God, the movie terrifying.' But, as an adult, I'm like, 'Oh, that movie is not like terrifying so much as what it talks about is terrifying.' It's really chilling and like a weird idiosyncratic art movie."

DaCosta's Candyman film has been dubbed a "spiritual sequel" to the original and is expected to expand on the mythology of the Candyman figure himself. Both are inspired by the Clive Barker short story "The Forbidden," which reveals the origin story of the character, a Black man named Daniel Robitaille who is tortured and murdered for having a relationship with a white woman.

DaCosta certainly intends to maintain the effect the first film had on her, and leave audiences terrified, but revisiting the original found that she expanding on ideas of Blackness and trauma gave more room for depth.

"I [realized] I have a lot more latitude and don't have to be confined to, 'I just have to scare people,' because it's about so much more than that."

Like the original, DaCosta's Candyman takes place in Chicago's Cabrini-Green neighborhood but shows a version closer to the present day. It's now a gentrified neighborhood, and DaCosta has spoken about engaging with issues of police brutality and the exploitation of Black art. The film stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, and Colman Domingo.

Nia DaCosta's The Marvels

DaCosta's future is bright and we can expect to hear her name for years to come. Following Candyman, she's set to helm the Captain Marvel followup, The Marvels. She's jokingly said that the process was much less "traumatizing" than that of Candyman but also expanded on the surprising amount of creative freedom Marvel has allowed her as a filmmaker.

"[It's] more [freedom] than I've had on anything. It's great because we're all just comic-book nerds who want to make a great comic-book movie."

The Marvels works as a sequel to Brie Larson's first film as Captain Marvel but also introduces Iman Vellani to the big screen as Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel. Teyonah Parris will return to the MCU as a newly powered-up Monica Rambeau and presumably, the three will earn the title of The Marvels. Little details are known about the film's plot, but DaCosta's note about having the freedom to inject her sensibilities as a filmmaker is promising.

Candyman hits theater next month on August 27. For a closer look, check out the trailer below. Meanwhile, check out the full profile of DaCosta at EW.