Celebrity Crush of the Moment: Nia DaCosta

Where we take a look under the surface and decipher the crush-worthy careers of our favorite celebs. Photo Credit: Rachel Murray/Getty Images/Corduroy Graphics

Levels: First Attraction, Tiny Crush, Big Fan, Love, Ride or Die

What we’re watching:


One fateful day back in April, I scrolled through Twitter — as I typically do — to find Horror Film Twitter ablaze with annoyance. I, a self-proclaimed fan of the horror genre, was curious as to why everyone was so incensed. Upon further investigation, I learned that the reason for the trending topic was the film Candyman (2021) and its advertising.

Candyman, at least on this day, was advertised as “Jordan Peele’s” Candyman. As Jordan Peele is on the Big Fan level of my crush scale, I was initially confused by this anger. At this point, I did what any self-respecting, former teacher’s pet would do — I busted out my laptop for some deep-dive Googling. 

After an initial search, I learned that Jordan Peele is not the director of this film like he was for Get Out (2017) and Us (2019). He’s the co-writer and producer of this retelling of the Candyman story. Candyman’s actual director and other co-writer is Nia DaCosta. 

Now, the outrage made sense. The internet anger I saw felt akin to the outrage for crush-worthy Tatiana Maslany (Love) when she was snubbed for an Emmy back in 2014. Ah, 2014. We were so young then. 

Trust me, those outrage emotions hit me hard. I wanted to take to the streets a la Billy Eichner and run around shouting, “DaCosta was snubbed!” That was the moment I knew… Nia DaCosta has crush-potential.

Based on a thorough internet stalking, I learned that Nia DaCosta is a filmmaker from New York. Her first feature film Little Woods (2019) premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. It stars some of my other crushes Lily James (Big Fan) and Tessa Thompson (Ride or Die) as two sisters living in North Dakota struggling to pay off their recently passed mother’s mortgage. 

Lily James and Tessa Thompson in Little Woods (2018)/Neon

The best thing about Little Woods is that it’s relatively easy to find. We love an easily accessible film. It’s available with a subscription to one of the Big Three Streamers — Hulu. I highly recommend watching it. You’ll understand, like I did, why she was chosen to direct Candyman.

One of the most important aspects of successful horror films is suspense. Despite not being a horror film, Little Woods establishes so much quiet tension within the first three minutes, before any real dialogue is spoken, that puts you more on the edge of your seat than a lot of films I’ve seen recently. The direction of just these three minutes alone showcases DaCosta’s skill. This quietness is part of the reason the world of Little Woods feels grounded and real.

Little Woods is not only a feat of great directing, but it’s also a showcase of great writing, world building, and character development. There are many layers to this world. Each moment is motivated by characters’ decisions and desires that further entangle the web of the plot.

This is not a film solely about one aspect of a character’s struggle. It grounds the world by tackling multiple struggles — financial struggles, single motherhood, drug abuse issues, etc. — with ease because life is never simply one problem to overcome. It’s always multiple problems all at once, compounded by various aspects of societal and personal struggles. 

Dramatic and thrilling, this film makes you root for the complicated characters despite their flaws and lack of paragon-potential.

As much as I was psyched by Little Woods, I knew the crush was real when June rolled around and DaCosta dropped the Candyman “puppet trailer.” The “puppet trailer” is a teaser for Candyman that showcases the backstory of the infamous Candyman killer through shadow puppets and animation. Its chilling visuals show off DaCosta’s love for complicated characters as it dives into the backstory of the Candyman.

The “puppet trailer”/Universal

In many ways, horror films are the villain’s story as well as the heroes’ story. A good, complex (even sympathetic) villain usually means the hero has to work so much harder to win but the payoff is so much sweeter. When done right, humanizing villains can add an extra level to the creep-factor in telling a horror story. Oftentimes, the villain/monster can be more of a plot device rather than a full character. Just from the trailer alone, it’s clear that DaCosta takes care to craft intricate characters and worlds in order for her audience to feel fully immersed in the escapism — and who doesn’t love escapism?

Little Woods has made me giddy for Candyman. The puppet trailer has made me a proud horror film fan. Any re-envisioning of a classic horror film is a great idea in my book. But, after learning more about DaCosta as a writer and director, I am sure that Candyman is going to be so freaking rad. The more I follow DaCosta’s career, the more I’m excited to see how it unfolds. There is no doubt that there will be time taken to create memorable characters and scares with DaCosta at the helm. I fully agree with Twitter. Candyman is Nia DaCosta’s Candyman

Then July happened and DaCosta was announced as the director for Captain Marvel 2. As a huge Marvel fan, I fully endorse this choice. If her past work is any indication on what we’ll be expecting for a DaCosta-helmed Marvel movie, I’m here for it!

Reasons why we love Nia DaCosta:

We love her because she has a love for creating “complicated women with agency” as she said in an interview with PBS’ Amanpour and Company.

We love her because her pinned tweet (before she left Twitter) is a reaction gif of the crush-worthy Richard Ayoade (Love).

But mostly, we love her because she is talented and we’re excited to see how her career unfolds.

Snaps for Nia DaCosta! She’s this Moment’s Crush! For now, I’m rating her at First Attraction, but I’m probably going to fall in love with her. I can’t wait to see Candyman (2021) and Captain Marvel 2.

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