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Gina Prince-Bythewood Explains A Big Difference Between The Woman King And The Old Guard's Action Scenes - Exclusive

You might not have expected Gina Prince-Bythewood to end up being an action director. Her first three features ("Love & Basketball," "The Secret Life of Bees," and "Beyond the Lights") were all small-scale dramas, two of three focused on romance. But then she dipped her toes into the action genre directing the pilot for the 2018 Marvel series "Cloak & Dagger" before breaking out in a big way with the 2020 Netflix hit "The Old Guard." Based on the comic about a team of immortal mercenaries by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernández, Prince-Bythewood's adaptation become one of Netflix's better-reviewed and most-watched original movies.

Two years later, Prince-Bythewood is back with another major movie: "The Woman King," inspired by the history of the African kingdom of Dahomey and its all-female Agojie fighting squad. The director once again shows off her talent for putting together action scenes, but this time, she was working under different limitations. Looper got the chance to speak with Prince-Bythewood ahead of the world premiere of "The Woman King" at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival, and she discussed one key difference between the productions.

Adjusting to a PG-13 rating

The war scenes in "The Woman King" are intense, with swords and spears swinging furiously and eyes getting gouged out by sharp fingernails. However, unlike the R-rated "The Old Guard," "The Woman King" contains this carnage within a PG-13 rating. This required a different approach for Gina Prince-Bythewood, but she managed to handle it effectively, and she says working with the content restraints for the battles wasn't difficult at all.

"It's the way you approach the action," she explained. "I wanted this action in the storytelling to absolutely be truthful. I wanted it to feel raw and visceral and real. It's being a little more creative. With 'The Old Guard,' I had more leeway in terms of how I shot it and what I wanted to see. For this, I didn't feel I needed that level of violence. This is war, it's real, but you don't have to be gratuitous with it."

"The Woman King" is now playing in theaters.