Negga’s ‘Loving’ performance already generating Oscar buzz

Limerick actor who was cut out of ‘12 Years a Slave’ is having a dizzying career surge

Ethiopian-Irish actor Ruth Negga's performance as Mildred Loving, the African-American woman whose prosecution for interracial marriage was a key incident in the civil rights struggle, has been greeted with rapturous acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival. Jeff Nichols's Loving, co-starring Joel Edgerton as Mildred's husband, Richard, now looks like a contender for prizes.

In 1967, the US supreme court eventually ruled that any such prohibition defied the constitution. Speaking at the press conference, Negga, raised in Limerick, compared the decision to the recent referendum on same-sex marriage.

“I’m half-Irish and last year we had referendum on gay marriage. There was overwhelming support for that,” she said. “Having a very Catholic history, that showed the world that it’s possible to evolve when having discussions about equality. The great thing about this film is that it humanises us. These aren’t just broad political ideas. They are about humans.”

It seems it is never too early to begin the Oscar conversation. Reporters were falling over themselves to ask if Negga was prepared for a likely nomination next January. She laughed and looked embarrassed.


“Let’s just get through the press conference,” Nichols said by way of support.

Negga, a graduate of Trinity College Dublin, is in the middle of a dizzying career surge. In a few weeks we will see her in the blockbuster Warcraft. She also has a significant role in the TV series Preacher.

“This is the most important film I’ve ever made,” she said. “It may be one of the most important films in history. I am overwhelmed by everything. It’s very hard to step back and see it all pan out.”

It must come as some consolation for being cut out of 12 Years A Slave. "That was one of the most difficult calls I have ever received," she agreed.

Meanwhile, controversy surrounding the decision to have Woody Allen's Café Society open the festival just refuses to die down. Susan Sarandon was in town for the Kering Women in Motion Talk, which celebrated the 25th anniversary of Thelma and Louise.


Asked for her opinions on Allen, who has denied claims of sexual abuse made by his stepdaughter, the actor first appeared to back away. “I have nothing good to say about

Woody Allen

, so I don’t think we should go there,” she said.

Pressed on the matter, she continued: “I think he sexually assaulted a child and I don’t think that’s right . . . It’s gotten very quiet in here, but that’s true.”

Sarandon was referring to allegations made by Allen’s stepdaughter, Dylan Farrow, and brought back into the public eye last week by his son, Ronan Farrow. The allegations, which Allen denies, were investigated in 1993 but no charges were brought.

The Cannes Film Festival continues until next Sunday.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist