Set in the modern-day, but spanning centuries, The Old Guard centers on a group of mercenaries who possess a mysterious inability to die. Academy Award winner Charlize Theron produces and stars as Andy — or Andromache the Scythian — a warrior born in an age that predates almost all historical records whose experience in combat rivals no other. Together with Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari), Nicky (Luca Marinelli), and the newest immortal, Nile (KiKi Layne), Andy uses her gift to protect mankind. She leads the team on a covert, darkly altruistic path through the ages, balancing harm with good, and taking a life when necessary in order to save thousands of others. But their secret is exposed when an operation brought to them by an ex-CIA operative, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, backfires and threatens their existence.
Twenty years after Sundance darling Love & Basketball marked the trailblazing arrival of Gina Prince-Bythewood, the award-winning director takes the helm of her first big-budget action film. The script is written by Eisner-winning comic book writer Greg Rucka which was adapted from his own acclaimed 2017 graphic novel series. The Old Guard flips the conceit of immortality as being something desirable on its head. It instead focuses on the inherent tragedy of living forever.
It’s also a superhero story that places the work of saving mankind firmly in the hands of two female warriors. “This is a story with mythological elements and themes of relationships, family, and love that were very appealing to me,” says Prince-Bythewood. “But at its core, the fact that I got to put two badass women on screen was everything. The script came to me at a time when I had been looking to move into a bigger sandbox and it ended up presenting me with the opportunity to do exactly what I wanted: To put female heroes into the world, one of whom is a young black woman.” By stepping into the role of Nile, a tenderfoot immortal who comes under the reluctant tutelage of Andy, KiKi Layne becomes the face of an all-new kind of hero. One whose powers may be unique, but whose grief over her former life and resistance to her newfound responsibilities are universally relatable.
When Skydance brought the project to Theron and her production company Denver & Delilah Films, it was the story’s realness that spoke to her the most. “As a company, we’d been looking for a project like this for a while,” says Theron. She and Prince-Bythewood connected and found they were immediately on the same page. “We wanted this to be a fast-paced action film that felt fresh and original; one that doesn’t sacrifice the heart and drama of the story at the core. We set out to make a really grounded, dynamic film with characters and predicaments that we haven’t seen before in the genre.”
“When we started to discuss who would be the perfect Andy, we all said that Charlize Theron is the sort of actress we should use as our north star,” says Granger. “No one actually thought we would be able to get Charlize because how often do you get your perfect dream casting? This sort of thing happens once in a lifetime. We threw caution to the wind and took the shot—the rest is history, as they say. Charlize is Andy, and Andy is Charlize. The movie works so perfectly because it sits squarely on her shoulders.”
“I love that the Old Guard struggle to find their purpose,” says Prince-Bythewood. “It’s such a universal story and it’s certainly been a theme in my work. But also inherent in my work is the normalcy of women being warriors. I love to reframe what it means to be a female, and I feel that movies can absolutely change the narrative and the conversation. Courage has no gender. Badass has no gender. It just is.”
“What resonates for me is our need for heroes,” Prince-Bythewood continues. “I love that so many people who aren’t thought of as often as they should be are now considered heroes, and I think people are craving ones who come in every package.”
Check out The Old Guard trailer here:
The Old Guard Premieres on Netflix July 10th, 2020