David Oyelowo said Brad Pitt, an executive producer of Selma, gave him a valuable piece of advice about not rushing to determine any film’s ultimate place in the culture.
Upon its initial release in December 2024, Oyelowo recalled in an appearance Tuesday at the NATPE Global conference in Miami, “there was this controversy about whether the film was historically accurate.” Plus, there was “the whole Oscar thing and #oscarsowhite, all this noise around the film, as opposed to what the film was.”
Despite acclaim for Oyelowo’s performance as Dr. Martin Luther King and overall support from critics and awards voters, the film received just two Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture, winning only for Best Original Song. Its global box office total was a muted $67.8 million.
Pitt told Oyelowo, who was upset about all of the turmoil, “‘Don’t worry about any of that,” the actor recalled. “You don’t know what your film is until 10 years after it’s been made. And I remember him saying that and me thinking, ‘Yeah, you’re Brad Pitt. You can say that. I don’t know about that.’ But he used the example of one of my favorite films of all time, which is Fight Club.”
David Fincher’s film, which starred Pitt and Edward Norton, faced withering attacks from cultural commentators, politicians and others for allegedly promoting violence and anti-social behavior. (It was also loathed by then-Fox studio uber-boss Rupert Murdoch.) Released in 1999, it opened to just $11 million in its first weekend and grossed $37 million in the U.S., before years later ascending to a position of great esteem in the eyes of the film community and cinephiles. “It didn’t do well, was considered a flop, and all the things that I came to later and thought, ‘There’s no way!’” Oyelowo said.
Selma, meanwhile, has aged well, Oyelowo said, and is “one of the things I am most proud of.” Pitt “couldn’t be more right, in terms of what [Selma] has continued to be, and it’s almost 10 years on,” Oyelowo concluded with a chuckle. “You were right, Brad, you were right.”
Each Martin Luther King Day, the latest coming just a day ago, Oyelowo said he catches clips from the film on Instagram, but he hasn’t gone back and watched the whole thing. “It’s completely out-of-body for me,” he said of seeing himself playing Dr. King in the film. “It was a real full-immersion thing, so I can barely connect myself to it.”
Oyelowo visited NATPE to receive an award from Deadline sister publication The Hollywood Reporter.