Netflix has provided Vital Thrills with a first look at Rustin, the Bayard Rustin biopic starring Fear the Walking Dead‘s Colman Domingo. Rustin will open in select theaters on November 3, 2023 and comes to Netflix on November 17.
Directed by DGA award and five-time Tony award winner George C. Wolfe, the film features a screenplay by Julian Breece and Dustin Lance Black.
The architect of 1963’s momentous March on Washington, Bayard Rustin was one of the greatest activists and organizers the world has ever known. He challenged authority, never apologized for who he was, what he believed, or who he desired. And he did not back down.
Bayard Rustin made history, and in turn, he was forgotten. Rustin shines a long overdue spotlight on the extraordinary man who, alongside giants like the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., Adam Clayton Powell Jr., and Ella Baker, dared to imagine a different world, and inspired a movement in a march toward freedom.
Produced by Academy Award winner Bruce Cohen, Higher Ground’s Tonia Davis and George C. Wolfe, the film features an all-star cast including Chris Rock, Glynn Turman, Aml Ameen, Gus Halper, CCH Pounder, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Johnny Ramey, Michael Potts, Jeffrey Wright, and Audra McDonald.
The cast also includes Lilli Kay, Jordan-Amanda Hall, Jakeem Powell, Grantham Coleman, Jamilah Rosemond, Jules Latimer, Maxwell Whittington-Cooper, Frank Harts, Kevin Mambo, Carra Patterson, Bill Irwin, Cotter Smith, and Adrienne Warren.
The executive producers include Higher Ground‘s Barack & Michelle Obama, Mark R. Wright, Alex G. Scott, David Permut, Daniel Sladek, and Chris Taaffe.
Born in 1912, Bayard Rustin was a visionary civil rights activist who was a close advisor to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A staunch proponent of non-violent protest, in part due to his Quaker upbringing, Rustin was the driving force behind organizing the historic March on Washington in 1963.
Bayard Rustin worked with a number of groups through the years, including serving as president of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, a civil rights organization in New York City, from 1966 to 1979. Of Rustin, King wrote to a colleague: “We are thoroughly committed to the method of nonviolence in our struggle and we are convinced that Bayard’s expertness and commitment in this area will be of inestimable value.”
Later in life Rustin turned his attention to LGBTQ+ activism and its intersection with the continuing civil rights fight, and was the first to bring the AIDS crisis to the attention of the NAACP. He passed away in 1987.
Because he was a gay man who was forced to live with the constraints and prejudices of the time — including beatings and arrests — his role in the movement was not widely publicized and thus the true significance of his contribution has been muted.
Bayard Rustin received recognition in 2013 when he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.
“He is a role model for what it means to be an American, what it means to daily, moment-to-moment, commit to democracy, commit to freedom, commit to possibility, commit to discovery, commit to passing on that which you know to other people,” said director George C. Wolfe.
“He was this big thinker and an incredible organizer, and he was influential to not only Dr. King, but all these other young people as well,” Domingo said. “We owe a lot to Bayard Rustin. I think it’s part of my mission to make sure that hopefully, come this fall, there will never be that question again, who Bayard Rustin was.”
Academy Award nominee Andrew Mondshein (The Sixth Sense, Ma Rainey’’ Black Bottom) edited the film and the production design was by Academy Award-nominated Mark Ricker (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Bombshell, Trumbo).
The costume design is by Toni-Leslie James and cinematography by Tobias Schliessler (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, A Wrinkle in Time, Dreamgirls). The film’s music was created by three-time GRAMMY-winning saxophonist, composer, bandleader, and music historian Branford Marsalis.