2016 was a banner year for black actors and entertainers. Big wins at the Oscars, the Emmys, and the Tonys have lifted the visibility and viability of projects starring actors of color.
In many ways, this explosion of recognition is due to the increased pressure from social media that has been building over the past few years to increase the recognition actors of color, thanks to hashtag campaigns such as #Oscarssowhite. It should come as no surprise then, that the latest Hollywood gossip sites and celebrity news are buzzing about a film that got its start as a twitter sensation.
After a contentious bidding war, Netflix has acquired the rights to a film staring Grammy winner Rihanna and Oscar winner Lupita Nyong?o that was inspired by 2014 snapshot of the women sitting front row of the 2014 Miu Miu fashion show.
“They look like they?re in a heist movie with Rihanna as the tough-as-nails leader/master thief and Lupita as the genius computer hacker” tumblr user Elizabitchtaylor commented in a post in 2015.
Attention returned to the idea in a more recent tweet from user 1800SADGAL joking, “Rihanna looks like she scams rich white men and Lupita is the computer smart best friend that helps plan the scams.” From there, the idea spread like wildfire across social media and becoming a darling for speculation on celebrity news sites.
The social media craze eventually managed to get Rihanna and Nyong’o on board with the heist film idea. Twitter users even managed to enlisted director Ava Duvernay (Selma) and screenwriter Issa Rae (HBO’s Insecure).
But until recently, there had only been speculation about the film’s future. Then the news broke on several celebrity news sites that during the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, Netflix outbid a number of interested parties for the rights to the film project.
While Nyong’o is a veteran of the screen, this project represents a huge step in Rihanna’s move to focus on acting rather than music. To date, she has only appeared in a handful of movies, she has yet to have a starring role in a live action movie.
Throughout most of her acting career, she has been relegated to the types of roles traditionally offered to singers: playing as herself several times.Even in the upcoming film, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, set to be her highest profile role since the 2012 flop, Battleship, she is taking on the role of a stage performer.
But the lack of high profile roles should not be seen as an indication of Rihanna’s ability. In fact, black celeb gossip blogs and entertainment news sites have lauded her performance as Marion Crane in the television series Bates Motel. She even won a Black Reel Award and was nominated for a People’s Choice for her role in the animated film Home .
Rihanna has also landed a role in the upcoming all-female reboot of Ocean’s Eleven. The film, Ocean’s Eight, will also star Hollywood Heavyweights Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, and Anne Hathaway.
This latest untitled project is set to begin production sometime in early 2018 and will likely feature at least some of the initial heist concept, as representatives for Rae have said “?the original Twitter users who imagined the concept for this film will be credited and included in some form.?
This film will represent a first for Rihanna, both because of her starring role and as a project directed, written, and starring high-profile women of color.
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