Stefani Robinson had the idea for her first feature when she was 16 years old. She'd recently discovered the 18th-century Black composer, Joseph Bologne, and realized that he had been largely forgotten from history — but even then, she knew his life's story deserved the biopic treatment. "I was like, 'If no one is going to write a movie about this guy, maybe one day I will.'"
"As someone who loves watching period pieces, my mom and I would joke like, 'Well, if there were ever any Black people in period pieces, I guess we would just be slaves,'" Robinson reflects. "Which is such a dark thought, but it was true! And I was also angry, because this was a person who impacted society and the world he lived in so much. So, I felt robbed of an opportunity of getting to know him."
In her 20s, Robinson found success as a TV writer, earning two Emmy nominations for her work on Atlanta and four more for What We Do in the Shadows. Whenever she was approached about writing a feature, she always pitched the same film. At long last, Chevalier brings Joseph Bologne's story to the big screen.
"The trippiest thing is going into a movie theater and seeing a poster for the movie," exclaims the writer. "The first time that happened was wild. I went to go see Creed III with my parents in Atlanta, we walked in, and the first poster we saw was the Chevalier poster. We all took pictures. We made a big scene about it."
MORE: How 'Chevalier' Restores a Black Virtuoso to His Rightful Place in History: 'He Is Getting the Last Laugh' (Exclusive)
Robinson doesn't see much commonality between her work on television (a dramedy about the hip-hop music scene, a comedy about vampires) and in film (a period drama about a virtuoso violinist and master fencer). 'The honest truth is that it's very different than anything I've written," she muses. "But there's not a lot about the projects I've worked on that really have anything to do with one another. So, in that vein it probably does slot in nicely in that it makes no sense when you look at a resume."
The movies she loves most are equally unalike. Below, Robinson shares with A.frame five of her favorites.
Directed by: Brett Ratner | Written by: Jim Kouf and Ross LaManna
I love Rush Hour. To me, it's one of those perfect films. It has everything. It's so hard to pull that off; to be funny, to be suspenseful. The action is impeccable. I laugh so much. There are explosions. It's truly like, 'Oh, this is what you go to the movies to go see!' It checks off all the boxes. It's always fun for me to watch.
Directed by: Baz Luhrmann | Written by: Craig Pearce and Baz Luhrmann
Romeo + Juliet is a nearly perfect movie. It is so genius. I don't think anyone has pulled it off the way that Baz Luhrmann has. This idea of adapting Shakespeare in such a way that it translates to a contemporary audience is probably the way that Shakespeare actually was at the time. Shakespeare was for everybody. Shakespeare was contemporary — there were jokes, there was cool music. Just the best movie soundtrack. It's flawless. No skips on that soundtrack.
Directed by: Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury and Conrad Vernon | Written by: Andrew Adamson, Joe Stillman, J. David Stem and David N. Weiss
Another incredible soundtrack. It's one of those sequels that is, I think, better than the first. Now, I love Shrek. Shrek is also a flawless movie, but Shrek 2 is... I have no comment really. I think it speaks for itself. My favorite joke is when Puss in Boots is getting arrested by the cops, and they find cat nip in a cocaine baggie. He says it's not his. Genius. The new Puss in Boots is also so good. I love it. I will see it five more times.
Directed by: McG | Written by: Ryan Rowe, Ed Solomon and John August
Another great soundtrack! The movie is so silly. It's just so silly and so fun, and it's so cool. When I was younger, I wanted to be every single one of them. They were funny, and dorky, and also hot. It's a movie with such great self-awareness. Also, Sam Rockwell smoking a cigarette and dancing around to Pharoahe Monch? That was really important to me.
Directed by: Karyn Kusama | Written by: Diablo Cody
I feel like everyone needs to watch that movie. It is so funny. It is so ridiculous. When it came out, I remember I watched it over and over and over and over again. It's Megan Fox's best role, I will say. It's so funny, and it is really scary! It's actually really frightening and disturbing. I love it.