Vanity Fair has unveiled its 27th annual “Hollywood” issue and, whew, this cover is packed with star power. The issue celebrates 10 actors, producers and directors who pushed storytelling forward with hope and humanity during the wildly unpredictable year of 2020.
The 2021 Hollywood portfolio features Without Remorse actor Michael B. Jordan, Euphoria star Zendaya, Schitt’s Creek actor Dan Levy, Da 5 Bloods director Spike Lee, The Old Guard actress Charlize Theron, I May Destroy You star and creator Michaela Coel, Borat 2 creator Sacha Baron Cohen, Breaking News in Yuba County star Awkwafina, Judas and the Black Messiah actor LaKeith Stanfield and Saturday Night Live queen Maya Rudolph.
“We could not have asked for a more talented, transcendent cast of characters than our cover stars this year,” editor in chief Radhika Jones wrote in an editor’s letter for the issue. “Their work has earned them new audiences on new platforms, rose to new creative heights, delved into new emotional depths, and brought catharsis, humour, and gratification. They have helped push the boundaries of what entertainment can be, and the stories it can convey, whether in a theatre or on your television or someplace in between."
Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari directed the photoshoots for the stars across four continents, using techniques that allowed Vanity Fair to minimize the number of people working on set and maximize COVID-19 protocol.
Each star spoke candidly about how interpreting this year’s events has become central to their work in their portfolio for the issue. They also touch on how the transformation in the entertainment industry could present an opportunity for more lasting, positive change.
Canadian darling Dan Levy spoke about how creative work took on a new meaning after 2020. “I think everything that we have gone through has only, from a creative standpoint, made the work that much more substantial,” Dan said. “Even if you’re going to tell a light little comedy, it feels like it should be about something.”
Dan also talked about how Schitt's Creek's relaxed portrayal of a gay couple showed the couple in a new light. "Personally, up until that point, I hadn’t seen a lot of gay characters and gay relationships portrayed with that kind of ease. As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, we’re so accustomed to seeing the members of that community put in danger," Dan said.
Iconic director Spike Lee had a few words to sum up 2020. “It was a f--ked-up year, 2020,” he said. “Just a f--ked-up year in bold letters with exclamation points: F--KED UP!!!”
Malcolm & Marie star Zendaya explained that when the whole world stopped last year, she "had the urge to stay creative," but she also used her downtime to "sharpen my video game playing skills."
Michael B. Jordan opened up about losing his late Black Panther co-star, Chadwick Boseman. “Our relationship was a very personal one and had a lot of great moments—some that I couldn’t fully appreciate and fully understand until now. I wish I had more time to have our relationship evolve, and grow, and become closer and stronger. We got a concentrated dose of Chadwick," MBJ said. "He did more in his 43 years of life than most people have done in a lifetime. And he was here for the time he was supposed to be here, and he had his impact, and his legacy."
He said that there are "generations of kids" that look up to Chadwick and that losing him "hurt a lot." He added, "That’s probably what made me cry the most this year.”
Awkwafina spoke about the key to better representation in Hollywood. “You don’t want to represent swaths of people,” she said. “But if there are not that many of us, then some people are going to think that what they see on screen is what we are. That’s why the solution isn’t more of me—it’s more people who are different.”
I May Destroy You visionary Michaela Coel opened up about how her run-ins with fans have changed during the pandemic. “I’ve had moments of getting slightly teary with a stranger on the street and sort of wishing you could hug,” she said. “But you can’t hug. So we sort of just do this thing where we put our fingers where they almost touch. It’s quite cute.”
The full feature in the Hollywood Issue of Vanity Fair is available for digital download and hits newsstands on February 26th.
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