Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood
Writers: Gina Prince-Bythewood, Dana Stevens
Stars: Lashana Lynch, Viola Davis, Hero Fiennes Tiffin
The Woman King” was a six-year project for Oscar winner Viola Davis, who stars in the film as Nanisca, the leader of an all-women military unit that once protected the historic West African Kingdom of Dahomey. Directed by Gina Prince -Bythwood and co-written by Prince-Bythwood and Dana Stevens, “The Woman King” premiered its first footage at this week’s CinemaCon event in Las Vegas, and we’ve got a description of the footage below.
Taking the stage at CinemaCon, Prince-Bythwood said, “All directors want to work with Viola Davis, because doing so gives you a chance to touch greatness.” Commenting on the film’s scale as a historical epic action drama, the director added, “We can be enveloped by greatness and be swept away.”
“The Woman King,” noted Prince-Bythwood, features an “assembly of the best actors of this moment from across the diaspora to embody [Nanisca’s] warriors.” The cast includes John Boyega and “No Time to Die” co-star Lashana Lynch. However, it puts Davis up front as the lead, and according to Prince-Bythwood, she had an “insatiable desire for excellence” and “kicks butt in this movie.”
After a highlight from her career was replayed, Davis herself took the stage to accept the convention’s Trailblazer of the Year award. Davis began by saying, “The five words I don’t want to take to my grave would be ‘I wasn’t brave enough.'” She said that she wanted to be a producer who championed black stories and talked about how seeing the late actress Cicely Tyson for the first time radicalized her to believe in something bigger than her own world.
“The Woman King,” Davis said, is her “magnitude work.” She said it was “a labor of love, bravery, courage and excellence” and “was the absolute conduit for introducing an entire area of storytelling to the world.”
The footage begins around a campfire, when a tribe of warriors is attacked by another tribe in the dark. Ships are then seen arriving at the shores with white passengers. John Boyega’s character seems to be some kind of king. Nanisca asks him to go to war, saying, “There are things worth fighting for.”
The King’s Guard, “the most elite warriors the world has ever known,” are then shown training in a manner reminiscent of the Dora Milaje from “Black Panther.” Nanisca says, “Fight or we die,” and there are many swords. She adds: “We fight for the future, we are the spear of victory, we are the sword of freedom!”
As Nanisca, Davis looks absolutely amazing, her muscles bulging, as if she could rip anyone apart on a battlefield. Before the reveal of the images, the Oscar winner said: “As an actor, I wanted to play characters that had never been seen before in a body that looked like mine.”