David Oyelowo is having a very good year!
The 39-year-old thespian, who will soon be seen on HBO in the indie drama “Nightingale” (after most-recently starring as MLK in “Selma”), will play yet another notable real-life human being in Seretse Khama – Botswana’s first president from 1966-80 – in a feature film titled “A United Kingdom.”
First announced in 2013, the project has now attracted the directing talents of Amma Asante (“Belle”), with Rosamund Pike said to be in talks to co-star alongside Oyelowo, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The film’s focus will be on the relationship between Seretse Khama (Oyelowo) and Ruth Williams (Pike), the young white woman who would eventually become his wife, and the inaugural First Lady of Botswana.
The pair met in 1947 and eventually made headline news all over the world, after falling in love and getting married, while Seretse Khama was an heir to the chieftainship of the Bamangwato tribe in Botswama.
Seretse was educated in South Africa and studied law in England, in the 1940s, where he met Ruth Williams, the daughter of a retired army officer.
Here’s more from a novel on the couple titled “Marriage of Inconvenience: The Persecution of Ruth and Seretse Khama,” penned by Michael Dutfield: “At first, the marriage was no more welcome in Africa than in government circles in Whitehall. Within a year of their wedding, the young couple had provoked an astonishing series of events that have never been explained. The British government was determined to prevent Seretse taking his rightful place at the head of his tribe. The Bamangwato, to their credit, accepted the marriage and welcomed Ruth as their queen. Attlee’s Labour government embarked on what appeared to be a vendetta against them, robbing Seretse of his birthright and his people of their chief. In the process, Seretse and Ruth were forcibly separated while she awaited the birth of their first child.”
“Attlee” refers to Clement Attlee who succeeded Winston Churchill as Prime Minister of the UK.
The couple’s son, Ian Khama, is currently president of Botswana.
The film that Oyelowo will star in will be backed by Pathé International, the same company behind another recent feature based on the life of a prominent African figure, “Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom,” which starred Idris Elba as the title character.
“Amma and Rosamund are two of the most exciting talents working in film today,” said Oyelowo. “I’ve worked with both of them before and so my excitement about them joining ‘A United Kingdom’ stems from a knowledge of just how inspiring they are to work with and how much daring and beauty they will bring to this epic love story.”
An October shoot date start is set, in London and Botswana, with Oyelowo also serving as producer, alongside Rick McCallum (long-time George Lucas producer), Brunson Green, Justin Moore Lewy and Charlie Mason.
The film is being made with the cooperation of the Khama family, which previously issued the following statement regarding the project: “We are pleased that the story of Sir Seretse Khama and Lady Khama is being brought to life in the film A United Kingdom by Pathe. Our family has been regularly involved in development of this film so far, having collaborated closely with the screenwriter Guy Hibbert in what we believe is a wonderful script. We are equally pleased that David Oyelowo will lead the cast as Seretse.”
Check out a 1965 interview with the couple below, discussing their desire to create a multi-racial, democratic society in Botswana, their family life and home.