Viola Davis and Lupita Nyong’o team as mother-daughter duo in new film on women warriors

Academy Award winner Viola Davis (“Fences”)will star alongside Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years A Slave”) in the upcoming film about women warriors of West Africa, co-produced by Julius Tennon

According to industry publication (Deadline Hollywood), Tristar Pictures has acquired worldwide rights to The Woman King, a film inspired by true events that will star Oscar winners Viola Davis and Lupita Nyong’o.

The original story is from Maria Bello, and Cathy Schulman’s Welle Entertainment will produce with Davis and Julius Tennon of JuVee Productions, and Bello of Jack Blue Productions.

Based on the true events that took place in The Kingdom of Dahomey, one of the most powerful West African states in the 18th and 19th centuries, The Woman King tells the story of Nanisca (Davis), general of the all-female military unit known as the Amazons, and her daughter Nawi (Nyong’o), who together fought the French and neighboring tribes who violated their honor, enslaved their people, and threatened to destroy everything they’ve lived for.

Lupita Nyong’o

 According to reports from, Dahomey is renowned as a “Black Sparta,” a fiercely militaristic society bent on conquest, whose soldiers strike fear into their enemies all along what is still known as the Slave Coast. Dahomey’s female troops were not the only martial women of their time. There were at least a few contemporary examples of successful warrior queens, the best-known of whom was probably Nzinga of Matamba, one of the most important figures in 17th-century Angola—a ruler who fought the Portuguese, quaffed the blood of sacrificial victims, and kept a harem of 60 male concubines, whom she dressed in women’s clothes.


Hannah Minghella

Most sources suggest that the last of the Dahomey women warriors died in the 1940s, but it has been disputed. As late as 1978, a Beninese historian encountered an extremely old woman in the village of Kinta who convincingly claimed to have fought against the French in 1892. Her name was Nawi, and she died, aged well over 100, in November 1979. Probably she was the last.

“The Woman King is the powerful true story of an extraordinary mother-daughter relationship,” TriStar Pictures president Hannah Minghella said. “And there’s no-one more extraordinary than Viola Davis and Lupita Nyong’o to bring them to life.”

Added Schulman: “Black Panther just showed us how the power of

Davis with husband, Julius Tennon

imagination and lore could reveal a world without gender and racial stereotypes. 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.”


Nicole Brown

Minghella and Nicole Brown will oversee the project for TriStar Pictures.

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