“Star Wars” alum John Boyega has left a galaxy far, far away!
After winning a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in “Small Axe,” Boyega has taken on the role of portraying Lance Corporal Brian Brown-Easley on the big screen. The film premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, which was held virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
What Is ‘892’ About?
The film “892” is based on the true story of Lance Corporal Brian Brown-Easley, 33, who was a Marine veteran struggling to survive on his disability checks from the Department of Veterans Affairs. After the monthly payments stopped, he faced homelessness. He sought help from the Veterans Crisis Line and a regional VA benefits office but was turned away.
In July 2017, he walked into a Wells Fargo bank in Atlanta and slid the teller a note saying that he had a bomb. He let everyone leave except for two employees and alerted 911 and a local news station to what was happening. He said he did not intend to rob the bank and would let the employees go if he decided to trigger the bomb. He just wanted the $892 dollars – hence the film’s title – that the VA owed him.
Unfortunately, his story ends in tragedy after he is killed by police.
Abi Damaris Corbin served as the film’s writer and director. Kwame Kwei-Armah also worked on the screenplay. The film featured a small cast of John Boyega, Nicole Beharie, Connie Britton, Olivia Washington, and is one of the last roles of Michael K. Williams, who sadly passed away on September 6, 2021, of a drug overdose.
Abi Damaris Corbin Says Easley’s Story ‘Broke My Heart’
After reading Aaron Gell’s 2018 article, “‘They didn’t have to kill him’: The death of Lance Corporal Brian Easley,” Corbin said he knew that Easley’s story “had to be told,” especially since his own father is a veteran.
“It broke my heart,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “I saw in it a reflection of my dad’s story. He’s gone through a lot of the struggles with the VA that are threaded through Brian’s story and I knew that story had to be told.”
Screenwriter Kwei-Armah said that John Boyega was considered for the starring role early on in the process.
“I gave John, I think, his very first job as an actor on stage when he was like 16 years old at the then-Tricycle Theatre in London,” Kwei-Armah said. “And as soon as we got to the end of the first draft, I went, ‘Look, I think this is John.’”
Although Boyega fell in love with the script, he couldn’t commit to the project due to scheduling conflicts. Although the project initially fell through, the producers decided to reach out to Boyega a second time.
“I loved it but I just kind of let that go and they moved on,” Boyega explained. “And it all came full circle [years later] when they needed someone to get the movie greenlit again. [The role] was a great opportunity to show versatility. … I was shocked that I hadn’t heard of what happened to Brian and I was moved by his story and the drama of the circumstance.”
“John and I had a conversation and it was very clear that he understood the heart of the story,” Corbin added. “The nuance that he showed as Brian was just inspiring every day on set. John’s first day on camera [fell on] the anniversary of Brian’s death. And when John stepped on camera for the first time as Brian, we had a moment of silence and the world faded away. We saw Brian on camera. It was the spirit of Brian that touched us, and we’re so grateful that John is able to bring the truth of Brian’s story to life.”
The Film Contacted The Late Veteran’s Family To Make Sure They Were Sending The Right Message
John Boyega on 892 at #Sundance: “We knew that PTSD would obviously be a main focus in formulating this character… the state of people who go out and protect our country who end up in a circumstance, in which their mind can’t function well.” pic.twitter.com/229ujLvUMG
— MR. WILL WONG 📸 (@mrwillw) January 22, 2022
To make sure that they were sharing Easley’s story accurately, the producers reached out to Easley’s ex-wife and daughter.
“We wanted to make sure that we respected and honored Brian’s story in every step, so we would never tell the story without connecting to them,” Corbin explained. “[His ex-wife, Jessica, has] watched the film and is very grateful that the story has been told and it’s not just known to them.”
Boyega added that “there’s definitely an emotional weight playing somebody that has existed who has had to live a tragedy in order for you to play him,” said Boyega.
“[Jessica] told me it felt like I captured Brian,” Boyega added. “She said that this movie is a direct lineage to Brian’s legacy: Brian wanted the world to know what was going on, how much frustration this was for people who’ve sacrificed so much for their country. The story is really [about] the isolation and betrayal that comes with serving your country and then coming back home to no opportunity or true help.”
Corbin Hopes ‘892’ Will Help Inspire Change In A Broken System
Still thinking about 892 #sundance. John Boyega’s is incredible, and Nicole Beharie is brilliant. Absolutely Heartbreaking to see Michael K.Williams as he delivers such a powerful performance. The film, based on a true story is devastating. Watch it if you can. pic.twitter.com/7ckIpdPMuc
— Jazz Tangcay (@jazzt) January 22, 2022
The filmmakers are hoping that they can shed light on the struggles that veterans face on a daily basis.
“The article was called ‘They didn’t have to kill him,’ and ultimately I think that’s the gig,” Kwei-Armah said. “This film is born of a time when it’s really important that we address the violence that is happening across our nation. And I think this sits within that wave of art that wishes to say, ‘This is the time that we’re living in and we quickly need to move past it.’ We’ve got to treat people right or this happens.”
“We’ve seen so many broken systems around us,” Cobin continued. “And as creators, we want to say, ‘Hey, compassionate engagement can help repair those.’ We want people to look at their neighbors and not turn a blind eye. As Brian says, do right by people.”
“I feel like movies are there to make us reflect, make us think, and in some ways make us brainstorm how we can be a part of that change,” Boyega added.
“Ultimately we remember civilizations based on their art,” Kwei-Armah concluded. “Art is how you define and remember a civilization and cinema is our high art. It has the power to catalyze debate and new thinking that ultimately can change human beings. And it absolutely is the role of art, the role of cinema, to catalyze change.”
Just watched the Sundance premiere of “892,” which tells the stunning, tragically moving and true story of Brian Easley.
It was an incredibly good and powerful movie (featuring John Boyega, Connie Britton and Michael K. Williams in his last movie).
More on the true story: https://t.co/OI2Uick2Dc
— Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs (@NickAtNews) January 21, 2022