Why Widows Had To Be Set In Chicago, According To The Cast

Viola Davis in Widows

It's clichéd to say that a city plays "an actual character" in a movie, but in some specific cases, this really ends up being true. You can't have Zodiac without San Francisco, and New York City might as well be the fifth Ghostbuster. The same will also be said of the tight-knit relationship that now exists between Steve McQueen's new crime thriller Widows and the Windy City of Chicago. When CinemaBlend spoke with the director and his cast about why it was important to set Widows in this city, we learned from McQueen:

Since the days even before Al Capone, Chicago was known for politics and a certain kind of corruption. And I loved the idea of, again, this city is so segregated. And also it just deals with all of the issues I want to deal with, which is policing, politics, criminality, and economics. And so I wanted to take my narrative and steep it in the now, and the contemporary modern city.

It's important to tap into the modern identity of Chicago, but the Widows cast went on to elaborate the region's history of crime as being a chief influence. In Widows, four women left in the lurch after their husbands are killed in a botched heist decide to work together to get what they think is coming to them: money and power.

But it was Liam Neeson, one of the film's co-stars, who told CinemaBlend that Chicago's history made it an integral location in which to shoot, explaining:

I guess it has always been known as a city where there's a fusion of crime and politics, religion and race, and Steve was insistent that we shoot here. Over 80 locations were actually used, and we didn't try and 'Hollywoodize' it.

The film is getting rave reviews for its mix of entertainment and message. And that could be found in co-star Michelle Rodriguez's explanation of the importance of shooting Widows in Chicago, as she told CinemaBlend:

I feel like Chicago's a metaphor for economic subterfuge, for both corruption and success at creating an amazing city. It's a melting pot of cultures. And what they did with the script, to be able to split that between the quest for power of the male species [laughs] all the way up the wrung of government down to the individuals selling drugs on the street corners, trying to survive -- and then splitting that in half, showing the quest for women trying to survive in this realm. I feel like Chicago just played a part as a universal metaphor for a democratic urban city anywhere in the world.

Watch the cast of Widows discussing the film with us:

Steve McQueen's movie reaches theaters this weekend, and in fact, starts screening in locations on Thursday evening (so go now). We'll have more from our interviews at the Widows press day on the site soon, so stay tuned.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.