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Chevalier - What We Know So Far

One of the great benefits of the recent push for diversification of filmmakers and subjects in Hollywood is that it spells good news for all the great, unsung stories that world history is replete with. With the film industry finally beginning to move beyond its default white, male, cis-heteronormative gaze, the lives and times of fascinating historical characters previously presumed not to have "audience appeal" can finally be given their due. Just in the past couple of years, for instance, cinematic renderings of such figures as Harriet Tubman, Rudy Ray Moore, and the Mangrove Nine have helped advance public awareness of Black history while simultaneously exploring the as-yet-untapped cinematic potential of those stories.

By the looks of it, the new Searchlight Pictures film, "Chevalier," seems rife with the potential to be another welcome addition to that slate of "why-haven't-they-made-this-movie-before?!" Black stories. Written by Stefani Robinson ("Atlanta") and directed by Stephen Williams ("Watchmen"), two huge TV talents making a momentous transition to the big screen, "Chevalier" is an Enlightenment-era historical drama to look out for. Here's what we know about it so far.

When will Chevalier be released?

"Chevalier" was originally announced in June 2020. At the time, Variety reported that Searchlight Pictures had landed an original feature pitch from Stefani Robinson for a film about Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, the first known Black classical composer, with Stephen Williams in tow as director.

Since then — understandably, given the COVID-19 pandemic — not much has been announced in the way of production progress on the project. As of now, with the film industry gradually defrosting after the generalized stasis of 2020, "Chevalier" appears to be in the casting stage; several actors have already been confirmed as part of the ensemble. But no word has come out yet on the expected timetable for the shoot, much less a release date.

With casting in full swing, of course, it's likely that the beginning of principal photography won't be too far behind; we wouldn't be surprised if the movie wrapped production in early-to-mid 2022. Given the nature of the story and the pedigree of the cast/crew, it's also likely that Searchlight will be positioning it as an awards player. Therefore, if we were to bet, we'd bet that "Chevalier" comes out sometime around fall 2022.

Who will be in the cast of Chevalier?

"Chevalier" has been rounding up an impressive ensemble of stars. Per Deadline, Kelvin Harrison Jr., one of his generation's hottest up-and-comers, is set to play the protagonist, Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges — a man of impressively varied talents and singular historical placement as a mixed-race Black man in late-18th-century France.

Harrison is joined by Samara Weaving in the role of Marie-Josephine, "a woman who yearns for creative fulfillment outside of her empty, loveless marriage and defies her controlling husband to become the voice of Bologne's opera," according to the official description (via The Hollywood Reporter). Weaving's character appears to be based on the real-life Marie-Joséphine de Comarieu, the Marquise de Montalembert, who was a close associate of Saint-Georges, as detailed on J. A. Rogers' book "World's Great Men of Color, Volume II." Lucy Boynton is also on board, playing none other than the last queen of France, Marie Antoinette.

The most recent casting announced was that of Minnie Driver, who is playing "La Guimard, a favorite dancer of Queen Marie Antoinette who took exception to the Chevalier's rise." In addition to these four actors, IMDb lists actor Jim High in the role of George Bologne, the Chevalier's father.

What will Chevalier be about?

The story of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, is so incredible that it boggles the mind to think it took this long for Hollywood to get on it. Born in the French West Indies as the son of a French plantation owner and a slave of Senegalese origin (via Naxos), he was able to graduate the Royal Academy and be made an officer in King Louis XV's court (via WBUR) and then went on to become one of Enlightenment-era France's most celebrated violinists and classical composers.

His musical accomplishments are plenty, with multiple string quartets, sonatas, and operas to his name; it was under his baton that Les Concerts des Amateurs became known as the greatest orchestra in France. But even more impressive is the breadth of his success as a "Renaissance man:" in addition to his work as composer and conductor, the Chevalier was also a world-famous fencing champion who is said to have only lost a single match in his entire life and fought as the colonel of the Légion Saint-Georges during the French Revolution, according to LA Opera.

Per Deadline, "Chevalier" will be focusing on that multifaceted career alongside Bologne's personal life, specifically his "abrupt downfall after an ill-fated love affair and a falling out with Marie Antoinette and her court." We can only imagine the myriad avenues Robinson and Williams might be traversing in their telling of this extraordinary man's story.