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The Woman King - What We Know So Far

Movies have the ability to show us stories that we've never seen before, and one upcoming film is shaping up to be groundbreaking both in terms of storytelling and representation: "The Woman King." The historical epic was first announced in 2018 and will take moviegoers to a time period in history that's traditionally been overlooked: the Kingdom of Dahomey, a once-powerful West African nation, and specifically the Dahomey Amazons, an all-female warrior unit that was active in the 18th and 19th centuries.

TriStar Pictures acquired the rights to "The Woman King," which is being produced by Welle Entertainment, Juvee Productions, and Jack Blue Productions. When the deal was announced, Julius Tennon of Juvee Productions said in a statement that the movie "has the potential to be a game-changer for women of color everywhere." Meanwhile, Cathay Schulman of Welle Entertainment compared "The Woman King" to the iconic 2018 blockbuster "Black Panther."

"'Black Panther' just showed us how the power of imagination and lore could reveal a world without gender and racial stereotypes," Schulman told Entertainment Weekly. "'The Woman King' will tell one of history's greatest forgotten stories from the real world in which we live, where an army of African warrior women staved off slavery, colonialism, and inter-tribal warfare to unify a nation."

Here's everything we know so far about "The Woman King."

What is the release date for The Woman King?

"The Woman King" doesn't yet have a release date, but based on the release schedule for the movie's distributor, TriStar Pictures, it probably won't debut until 2023 at the earliest.

TriStar Pictures currently has more than 20 movies in development, (via Movie Insider), but only three have announced release dates: the Whitney Houston biopic "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" premieres Thanksgiving weekend 2022 (via The Hollywood Reporter), the "Matilda" musical will debut in December 2022 (via Deadline), and the World War II drama starring Dakota and Elle Fanning, "The Nightingale," will also drop in December 2022.  

So, since "The Woman King" doesn't yet have a date for the start of production (via The Cinemaholic), it's unlikely it would premiere before any of those three movies. And since movies usually take 10-14 months to complete, we probably won't get to see it until a couple of years from now. 

Who is in the cast of The Woman King?

As reported by Deadline, Viola Davis will be headlining "The Woman King" in the role of Nanisca. Davis won the 2017 Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in "Fences," and she also has a Primetime Emmy, two Tonys, and two SAG Awards. Her co-lead is South African actress Thuso Mbedu, who will be playing Nawi — a role that was originally planned for Lupita Nyong'o (via Deadline). Mbedu has been nominated for an International Emmy Award and recently starred in Barry Jenkins's "The Underground Railroad." The third member of the cast announced so far is Lashana Lynch, whose role hasn't yet been announced (via Deadline). Lynch recently starred alongside Brie Larson in "Captain Marvel."

Behind the camera, Gina Prince-Bythewood will be directing. Her most recent directing credit is "The Old Guard," which starred Charlize Theron. Her directorial debut was the 2000 romantic drama, "Love & Basketball." The script is written by screenwriter Dana Stevens. 

What is the plot of The Woman King?

"The Woman King" is based on historical events involving the former Kingdom of Dahomey which was located in modern-day Benin. Dahomey was home to the Dahomey Amazons, an all-female military unit that most likely originated in the 1600s (via Smithsonian). European observers compared Dahomey to Sparta, the militaristic ancient Greek city-state. 

The story follows Nanisca, the general of the Amazons, and her daughter, an ambitious recruit named Nawi, who "together fought enemies who violated their honor, enslaved their people and threatened to destroy everything they've lived for" (via Deadline). Most likely, Nanisca and Nawi are fictionalized versions of real people. According to Smithsonian, Nanisca was the name of a teenage recruit who joined the Amazons in 1889. Nawi was the name of a woman thought to be the last surviving member of the Amazons when she passed away in 1979. She had previously fought against the French in 1892, during the Second Franco-Dahomey War. Whether the characters in "The Woman King" will take direct inspiration from these particular women remains to be seen.