The Battle To Get ‘The Woman King’ Made

The Hollywood ReporterSource: The Hollywood Reporter

The first time Gina Prince-Bythewood and Viola Davis met about The Woman King, in the offices of Davis’ production company in the spring of 2020, the filmmaker broke one of the rules of her trade. “As I started talking about my connection to the material, I lost it,” Prince-Bythewood says. “There’s no crying in directing. But I cried there. And I left going, ‘Fuck, did I just blow it? Is V going to think I’m weak?’ “

It’s hard to imagine Prince-Bythewood giving anyone an impression of weakness. The director, a former basketball and track star whose filmography ranges from the 2000 romantic drama Love & Basketball to the 2020 Netflix superhero movie The Old Guard, is tall and lean, and projects a quiet confidence. As she tells this story during an interview in mid-August, she’s wearing a T-shirt that says, “I’m Gonna Win,” chosen specifically for a meeting she’s having at Sony later that day; she anticipated a conflict with the studio over a decision on The Woman King, which she’s racing to finish in time for its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 9 and its release in theaters Sept. 16.

Prince-Bythewood is adopted, and it was when she began to talk about that at the meeting with Davis that her usual assured persona evaporated. The Woman King script, written by Dana Stevens and based on a story by Maria Bello and Stevens, is a historical epic about the Agojie, an all-female army in the West African Kingdom of Dahomey in the 18th and 19th centuries, and it includes a storyline about an adopted girl. That moment of tearful revelation, which the filmmaker feared might cost her the chance to direct a unique studio movie centered on Black female power, instead clinched the deal. “I thought I was looking at a warrior,” Davis says. “Vulnerability is strength.”…

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