Viola Davis in 'The Woman King.'
Source: Sony Pictures

Viola Davis Reigns Supreme in 'The Woman King,' but Is It Based on a True Story?

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Jul. 6 2022, Published 5:07 p.m. ET

Upcoming historical epic drama The Woman King has film fans already screaming for more. The movie, which is directed and co-written by Gina Prince-Bythewood, follows Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis as Nanisca, General of the Dahomey Amazons, and Nawi (Thuso Mbedu), an ambitious recruit.

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Is The Woman King based on a true story? Here's what we know about the film.

Viola Davis in 'The Woman King.'
Source: Sony Pictures
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Is 'The Woman King' based on a true story?

The way The Woman King became a film began in 2015 when actress-producer Maria Bello was presenting Viola Davis with a Women Making History Award. According to Vanity Fair, Maria took the opportunity to pitch Viola the idea of making a historical drama, leading to enthusiastic audience response. She had been working on an idea already with producer Cathy Schulman.

Several years later, director Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball, The Old Guard) teamed up with Maria, Cathy, and writer Dana Stevens to create the film that is now The Woman King. The movie tells the story of the Agojie, who also reportedly inspired the Dora Milaje in Black Panther.

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Viola Davis and Thuso Mbedu in 'The Woman King.'
Source: Sony Pictures

Viola Davis and Thuso Mbedu in 'The Woman King.'

In real life, the Agojie, also known as the Dahomey Amazons, were an all-female military regiment in Dahomey (now Benin), West Africa. The third king of Dahomey, King Houegbadja, is said to have created the group. Initially, the Agojie were elephant hunters, but the next leader successfully utilized the Agojie to defeat a neighboring kingdom in 1727.

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During the 1800s, the new king, King Ghezo, began creating a more formalized structure for his military, which included the Agojie. English-speaking folk referred to the women as "Amazons," but the Agojie referred to themselves as "ahosi (king's wives) or Mino (our mothers)," according to an academic paper written by Robin Law.

John Boyega as King Ghezo in 'Woman King.'
Source: Sony Pictures

John Boyega as King Ghezo in 'Woman King.'

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Many of the characters in the film, such as King Ghezo (who is played by Star Wars icon John Boyega), are based on real-life counterparts, but it's currently unknown if Viola's character Nanisca or Thuso's character Nawi are also based on real people.

Viola and Gina explained to Vanity Fair that there were few available resources about these women. The only book in English about the Agojie was written by a white colonizer.

"Our production designer, Akin McKenzie — incredible dude — started combing through and excising anything from the colonizer’s point of view. He knew which photos were fake and created for the World Fair. There are so few actual photos of these women. Most of them are recreated," Gina explained.

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What is 'The Woman King's release date?

Thankfully, fans won't have to wait much longer to see the film. The Woman King will be released in theaters on Sept. 16, 2022.

Currently, it is unclear if Sony Pictures, the distributor, will release the film on demand or on a streaming platform 45 days later, but based on previous film releases in 2022, that is possible.

It sounds like the production is in great hands bringing this story to life! Fans are excited to see Viola alongside powerhouse actors John Boyega and Lashana Lynch.

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