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Lupita Nyong’o Arrives in Uganda to Begin Production on Mira Nair’s ‘Queen of Katwe’ (Playing Phiona Mutesi’s Mother)

Lupita Nyong'o Arrives in Uganda to Begin Production on Mira Nair's 'Queen of Katwe' (Playing Phiona Mutesi's Mother)

It appears this will be Lupita Nyong’o’s next film after all (after “Star Wars,” which will be out later this year).

The actress has arrived in Uganda to begin production on director Mira Nair’s adaptation of the book “The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl’s Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster,” by Tim Crothers, on Ugandan chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi, also known as “The Queen of Katwe.” She’s also been the subject of short documentaries and news reports, capturing her inspiring story. I embedded one of them at the bottom of this post.

Nyongo will play Phiona’s mother, Harriet Mutesi, in the highest profile film project to come to Uganda since 2006’s “The Last King of Scotland,” about Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, which garnered an Oscar for Forest Whitaker in the title role.

Joining Nyong’o in “Katwe” is David Oyelowo. The two will also star together in the film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s “Americanah,” which counts Brad Pitt’s Plan B as a producer.

It hasn’t been confirmed yet, but a local Ugandan actress will likely be playing Phiona Mutesi in the film. 

Nair’s “Katwe” project is set up at Disney. No ETA on the project yet, although I’d look to 2016 for a premiere, likely on the film festival circuit.

I’m anxious to see what Ms Nair is cooking up here. It reads like that kind of project that should attract critical acclaim, and awards. And with Disney’s backing, I’m assuming it won’t go unnoticed.

Both Nyong’o and Oyelowo are in very rare air right now, capturing the right kind of attention, being in demand, and having the ability to actually be choosy. With a lucrative, long-term Lancôme contract inked, Lupita is very likely not struggling for cash at the moment, and so she can probably afford to be selective about the projects she decides to take on. And thus far, one could say she has. She certainly could’ve parlayed her Oscar win into a myriad of roles, in a million movies (I’d like to believe she’s been offered quite a few roles since “12 Years a Slave”); but she’s been picky in terms of projects and filmmakers she works with, which is smart.

Oyelowo doesn’t have a long-term contract with Lancôme, but he’s definitely busy, and, with the strong buzz he received for his star-turn in “Selma,” it will surely translate to even more starring roles, in even more high profile projects, for the actor.

If you’d like to buy Tim Crothers’ book, click here.

Here’s a short documentary on Phiona Mutesi:

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