Ryan Coogler chose to tell Oscar Grant’s story during his days as a student at the coveted USC film school. The script, which was initially called Fruitvale, would become a defining moment in Coogler’s professional career as a director.
Now titled Fruitvale Station, the film is already being considered Oscar-worthy. During a recent interview with rolling out, Coogler discussed the process of creating Fruitvale Station, the similarities between the murders of Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin, and a possible Oscar nomination.
When did you realize the story of Oscar Grant needed to be told?
I thought about it after watching the fallout from it. Oscar not making it home to the people that knew him the best –I just thought that was the biggest tragedy. Before making the film, I had to talk to his family and I wanted to approach them the right way. I had a friend who went to law school and eventually began working for the law firm that represented Oscar’s family. He introduced us and I was able to take it from there. I got access to the public documents of the criminal trial. I started writing the script from that. Then I met the family and presented it to them.
Obviously, people are drawing comparisons between Oscar Grant’s case and Trayvon Martin. What are your thoughts on the timing of the release of the film and the George Zimmerman verdict?
I never thought I would be promoting this movie the same time the [George Zimmerman] trial was going on. It was really a coincidence. But it happened liked that and people can obviously draw parallels. I’ve been asked questions about it, but I never wanted to promote the film in relationship to [Martin] losing his life like that. I was devastated about hearing the news of his life being taken and the news of the verdict.
The film is receiving great reviews and is an early favorite for Oscar consideration. What goes through your mind when you hear such a prestigious award attached to your first major film?
I didn’t make the film for awards. But I feel like people involved in the film, like my actors, deserve every piece of recognition for their work. For me, the film is about humanity. I hope people will see a little bit of themselves in the characters and a little bit of their relationships and the character’s relationships. If they can see that, they can see the value in this person’s life.