Meet Nia DaCosta, the youngest person to direct a Marvel film

BY Preta Peace Namasaba July 1, 2024 7:58 AM EDT
Nia DaCosta. Photo credit: Nia DaCosta

Nia DaCosta is the director of the 2023 superhero film The Marvels, a sequel to Captain Marvel which generated over $1 billion globally. She became the youngest person to have directed a Marvel film at only 31. DaCosta is also the first African-American woman to helm a Marvel Studios picture.

“This would not be my career five years ago. I’ve been very lucky and I’ve worked really hard, and I’m really happy that I’ve had the experiences that I’ve had. Well … the good ones at least. At the same time, as well as I’m doing, this should be happening for more people who are like me,” DaCosta told The Guardian.

DaCosta was born in Brooklyn and raised in Harlem by her mother, an immigrant from Jamaica. Her mother was a singer in a musical group and encouraged her daughter’s creativity. DaCosta enjoyed writing and telling stories as a child and envisioned herself becoming an actor. Her desire to have more creative control drove her towards directing.

Growing up as a young Black woman, DaCosta realized that her experiences were either not represented onscreen or watered down for a white audience. This motivated her to tell stories of people unusually depicted in media. She took her first film class at 16 while in boarding school and even wrote a feature-length screenplay. DaCosta graduated from New York University’s Tisch School Of The Arts and went on to attend the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London.

She worked as a production assistant while pursuing her master’s degree. DaCosta was simultaneously writing her debut film Little Woods. She applied for the Sundance Institute’s Directors and Screenwriters labs and her script was accepted. The film which focuses on two impoverished sisters in modern-day North Dakota won the Nora Ephron Award at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2018.

Following Little Woods, DaCosta directed two episodes of the third season of Top Boy. She was soon hired by Academy Award and Emmy Award-winning producer Jordan Peele in 2019. She co-wrote and directed Candyman, a sequel to the horror told from a Black point of view. The film earned $77 million worldwide and became the first African-American female director with a film to debut at the top of the box office.

“I always knew I wanted to do genre films. I love horrors and thrillers. But I didn’t think I’d be doing a Marvel movie as my third film. Absolutely not. Still, I’d always wanted to do a Marvel movie because I grew up with Marvel comics. I just wanted it to be a hero that I’m excited about. And I wanted it to be with good people,” DaCosta explained.

In 2020, DaCosta was hired to direct The Marvels. The film was a sequel to Captain Marvel which had generated over $1 billion globally. At only 31, she became the youngest person. She is the first African-American woman to direct a Marvel film. With a budget of more than $200 million, The Marvels is the highest-budgeted film to be helmed by a Black woman.

The Marvels made a little over $200 million at the box office. DaCosta has also directed an episode in the TV show Ms Marvel. She is currently working on Hedda, a film based on her adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s classic play Hedda Gabler. DaCosta has also been linked with directing an adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s novel The Water Dancer.