Shawn Levy, whose limited series “All The Light We Cannot See” is premiering on Netflix on Nov. 2, was supposed to have a packed year, between the filming “Deadpool 3” and Season 5 of “Stranger Things” of which he’s an executive producer and director. With both productions paused due to the SAG-AFTRA strikes, Levy has instead been busy promoting “All the Light We Cannot See,” an adaptation of Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. The series, which he describes as “more timely than ever,” stars Aria Mia Loberti as Marie-Laure, a courageous blind teenager living in Nazi-occupied France. After meeting Levy on the French set of “All the Light We Cannot See” in Saint-Malo last year, I had a chance to speak with him in recent weeks for a feature that ran in Variety‘s Oct. 18 issue. We spoke about his mystery “Star Wars” movie, the impact of the dual strikes on the fifth and final season of “Stranger Things” — and his concern over the current rise of hate speech and antisemitism around the world.
How important is “Stranger Things” in the strike negotiations? Ted Sarandos is reportedly eager to have the fifth season go into production.
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I can’t speak to how important “Stranger Things” is to Netflix in the strike talks, and I am not inclined to speak on their behalf. I can say with confidence I think every actor, director, producer, writer and crew member want to get back to work. I think that “Stranger Things” is a true flag-bearing franchise for Netflix’s brand, and everyone there is also hungry to make the next season. However, none of that can happen unless there is a fair and equitable deal made. I’m saying a small prayer that I will already be back at work once this piece runs.
The actors are also growing up. Are you concerned that the final act will have to be rewritten about if the strike goes on for much longer?
We’ve already watched the cast of our show grow up in the public eye, and between 12 and 22, every human being changes profoundly. This passage of time is definitely not helping. That being said, our hair and makeup and wardrobe department are pretty exceptional, using costumes and wigs and makeup. The ’80s are also our friends in returning these young adult actors to their iconic Hawkins characters. So we’re going to use all the all the tools available to us. And I know our cast is as eager to get back to work as the rest of us.
When Kathy Kennedy brought me on board to make a “Star Wars” movie, her central mandate to me was “I want a Shawn Levy movie. I want a story and a tone that reflects you and your taste and what you bring to your movies — with a ‘Star Wars’ story.” So I have felt extremely empowered. We are in early days, unfortunately, because the development process was abruptly paused [due to the WGA strike], but I feel very empowered to trust my instincts in the development of this story and movie.
Could “Deadpool 3” be good practice for “Star Wars”?
The experience that I’m currently having with Marvel on “Deadpool” is showing me firsthand that it is indeed really possible to feel empowered and personal about making a movie within a universe that is bigger than any one film. My “Deadpool” movie is turning out to be exactly what Ryan [Reynolds] and I had hoped when we started off. So I’m going into the development of my “Star Wars” movie with a similar optimism, and faith that my instincts will be allowed to lead the way.
Since you’re close to Adam Driver, could your “Star Wars” movie be a prequel to “Episode VII: ‘The Force Awakens” in which Kylo Ren would be back?
Your words, not mine! As you know Adam is a buddy, and I’ve always been a huge fan of Kylo Ren. But no comment.
How timely do you think your WWII-set series “All the Light We Cannot See” is, considering the rise of antisemitism since the Oct. 7 attack perpetrated by Hamas in Israel?
“All the Light We Cannot See” has echoes and reverberations that are that are so vivid even now. And that history has a has a heartbreaking way of repeating itself. Sometimes the world can feel so dark, as it does now once again, that the book and the show in its theme, and its very title, is about the struggle and the need to hold on to the belief that there is light we cannot see. What’s been painful to me is just to go through the pain of that horror of the attack, and to go through the waves of pain — as I see the unleashing of so much global antisemitism.
In the face of so much antisemitism, it is imperative that Jews, and frankly, non-Jews alike stand up. When the world is silent in the face of antisemitism, we know how this goes. This is not our first time dealing with this, so we should know better by now.
And we should stand up collectively in the face of hate, Jew and non-Jew alike.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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