Steve McQueen had to "literally beg" Michelle Rodriguez to say yes to a role in his new movie Widows after she kept turning it down.

In the 12 Years A Slave director's new crime thriller, The Fast and Furious actress is joined by Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Erivo, who play four widows that team up to finish off a heist job after their husbands die during their failed attempt.

Michelle, who is known for playing feisty characters onscreen, stars as Linda, an impoverished and abandoned mother of two children, but she kept turning the role down because she didn't want to portray such a weak woman.

"That's the epitome of everything I despise," she told Britain's Vogue magazine. "The horror of having your security and your life ripped out from under you, I hate it. It's the thing about poverty - coming from nothing, as I have - I've always been repulsed by it."

The British director admitted he had to "literally beg" her to accept the role, and asked Michelle to examine why the part made her so uncomfortable.

She revealed the role hit close to home, adding, "My mother was that woman."

The filmmaker also shared that he got lucky finding a foursome that worked so well together.

"During casting I only thought about who was best to play each individual character," he explained. "There was this energy when you combined these four, though."

Australian actress Elizabeth says that Steve deserves all the praise for putting such a diverse group of women together and creating "a beautiful thing".

"I mean, we could not be more varied in who we are," she said. "Where we come from, how we look, how we sound, our senses of humour. Then you put us together with Steve as the conductor and it's a beautiful thing."

Widows, based upon the 1983 British TV series of the same name, hits cinemas in November (18).