by writer/director Jeff Nichols
We use a photograph at the end of our film that was taken by Grey Villet for Life Magazine, and I believe it says so much about the story of Richard and Mildred Loving. When seeing it, you immediately recognize it is period, perhaps the 1950s or 1960s. You see a rough-hewn man lying in a delicate position, his head in the lap of a woman. He is white, she is black and they are laughing. It’s at once incongruous with what we typically associate with rural Southerners of that period and at the same time seems perfectly normal. Who could argue they don’t look happy? Who could argue they aren’t in love? That is really the point of Richard and Mildred’s story and ultimately the point our film hopes to convey.
Richard and Mildred Loving were married in June of 1958. As a result, authorities broke into their home, arrested them and sentenced them to a year in the state penitentiary. This sentence was suspended on the condition that they be exiled from the state of Virginia for a period of 25 years. Richard and Mildred would spend the next nine years fighting to get home.
In 2012, I was approached by Colin Firth, Ged Doherty and Nancy Buirski, three of the producers on our film. Nancy had made a documentary for HBO called The Loving Story. I hadn’t seen the documentary before they approached me and I hadn’t known of Richard and Mildred Loving. After watching their story unfold so beautifully in this documentary, I couldn’t help but wonder what took so long for me to learn about this part of our American history. Their case, Loving v. Virginia, went all the way to the Supreme Court, which in 1967 reaffirmed the very foundation of the right to marry. Their story is not only part of a landmark Civil Rights case that changed the trajectory of our nation, but in my view it is one of the greatest love stories in American history.
In all of my films, I try to attach my stories to a palpable emotion. It needs to be an emotion strong enough to make it through the gauntlet of writing, pre-production and editing so that by the time an audience sees it there is some resonance of that emotion. At the heart of this story is a sincere love that I find to be profound. I hope you see the film and I hope you recognize this feeling. It is the story of Richard and Mildred Loving and it is a story I think we are in desperate need of today.