Is The Woman King based on a true story? Here's what we know about the film.
Is 'The Woman King' based on a true story?
The Woman King's journey to the silver screen started in 2015 when actress-producer Maria Bello presented 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 an 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.
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.
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.
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.
Who wrote 'The Woman King'? Maria Bello and Dana Stevens teamed up.
Dana Stevens wrote the screenplay for The Woman King, based on a story by Maria Bello. Maria is known for starring in movies like A History of Violence, Coyote Ugly, Prisoners, and more. Over the last decade, Maria has flexed her producing skills, boasting Executive Producer credits on Exit, Giant Little Ones, and In Search of Fellini.
Dana is an actor and writer, who worked on screenplays for Fatherhood, City of Angels, Safe Haven, and more. The Woman King earned Dana her first best screenplay nominations from the AACTA International Awards and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists.
Unfortunately, The Woman King was snubbed by the Academy this year and earned zero nominations, despite strong critical reception, with many praising the narrative and Viola's performance.
The Woman King is now streaming on Netflix.