Director Gina Prince-Bythewood has been confirmed for the upcoming historical epic, The Woman King, starring Academy Award winners Viola Davis and Lupita Nyong’o. The news comes over two years after Sony’s TriStar subsidiary acquired worldwide distribution rights to the film in March 2018.
The Old Guard, Prince-Bythewood’s latest work, debuted on Netflix last week to critical acclaim. Her other features include Love & Basketball, The Secret Life of Bees and Beyond the Lights.
The Woman King is based on true events that took place in the Kingdom of Dahomey (now southern Benin), previously one of Africa’s most powerful states. In October 2019, Nyong’o travelled to Benin and collaborated with Channel 4 to create Warrior Women with Lupita Nyong’o, a documentary uncovering the history of Benin’s Dahomey Agojie (or ‘Amazons’) that The Woman King also explores.
Nyogo’o will star as Davis’s daughter in the picture. Hannah Minghella, president of TriStar, commented, “The Woman King is the powerful true story of an extraordinary mother-daughter relationship. And there’s no one more extraordinary that Viola Davis and Lupita Nyong’o to bring them to life.”
Nyong’o has previously starred in 12 Years a Slave, Us, Black Panther and J.J. Abrams’s Star Wars sequel trilogy. She is set to star in and produce Americanah, an adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s award-winning novel of the same name.
Davis was most recently seen in ABC’s sixth and final season of How to Get Away With Murder earlier this year. She is set to appear in Warner Bros’ Suicide Squad sequel, The Suicide Squad, in 2021.
Cathy Schulman’s Welle Entertainment and Maria Bello of Jack Blue Productions are set to produce. Schulman commented, “The Woman King will tell one of history’s greatest forgotten stories […], where an army of African warrior women staved off slavery, colonialism and inter-tribal warfare to unify a nation.”
As well starring, Davis is a producer on the picture with Julius Tennon through her production company, JuVee Productions. On The Woman King, Davis and Tennon said they are “beyond excited to introduce this incredible story of the Women Warriors of The Dahomey Ahosi tribe to the world.
“It’s time that they truly occupy their place in history and in Gina Prince-Bythewood’s hands, it will be a gamechanger.”
Words by Olivia Emily