WEEK IN WOMEN news roundup: Olivia Munn to be honored for her sexual harassment fight, Margot Robbie to produce femme-focused Shakespeare series, inclusion rules at the box office in 2018

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Oklahoma native Olivia Munn appears in the HBO series "The Newsroom." Munn will be honored by her alma mater, the University of Oklahoma, April 13 at OU’s Women’s and Gender Studies Board of Advocates Voices for Change gala. HBO photo

Oklahoma native Olivia Munn appears in the HBO series “The Newsroom.” Munn will be honored by her alma mater, the University of Oklahoma, April 13 at OU’s Women’s and Gender Studies Board of Advocates Voices for Change gala. HBO photo

NORMAN, Oklahoma – Three pioneers in change, including movie and television star Olivia Munn, will be honored for their contributions to society at the University of Oklahoma’s Women’s and Gender Studies Board of Advocates Voices for Change gala at April 13, in the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History Grand Hall.

As I reported on my BAM’s Blog, Munn, an OU alumna and actor known for her roles in HBO’s “The Newsroom” and the “X-Men” film franchise, will give the keynote address and receive the inaugural Voice for Justice Award for her leadership and activism against sexual harassment in the workplace.

Also the author of The New York Times best-selling book “Suck It Wonder Woman: The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek,” Munn and five other women in November accused film producer and director Brett Ratner of sexual misconduct, and she has become an active supporter of the Times Up Initiative, led by women in the entertainment industry to provide legal defense funds to help less privileged women protect themselves from sexual misconduct.

Also at the gala, the 2018 Courage Awards will be presented to Suzette Grillot, dean of OU’s College of International Studies, who has been a passionate advocate for student immigrants, and to the late Clara Luper, an Oklahoma Civil Rights pioneer who led the nation’s first youth sit-ins in the late 1950s.

The Voices for Change fundraiser will feature a silent auction and dinner. Proceeds benefit OU Women’s & Gender Studies’ student internships, scholarships, instructional program support and its Center for Social Justice Activist-in-Residence Program.

In addition, Munn will play the title role Justine Bateman’s feature film directorial debut “Violet,” Variety reported last week.

Bateman – perhaps best known for playing Mallory Keating on the 1980s TV series “Family Ties” – is producing and directing from her own script.

The movie will reunite Munn and Justin Theroux (“Mulholland Drive,” HBO’s “The Leftovers”) who voiced an estranged couple in last year’s animated “The Lego Ninjago Movie.” It also will star Anthony LaPaglia (“Empire Records,” the TV series “Without a Trace”).

In “Violet,” Munn will play an up-and-coming film executive who lives according to the Voice (Theroux) in her head, until unexpectedly realizing the truth — it’s been lying about everything. LaPaglia will play her boss, who diminishing her confidence much like the Voice.

According to Variety, Bateman will produce under her Section 5 banner, along with Mark G. Mathis (“Precious”). Cassian Elwes (“Lee Daniels’ The Butler”) is executive producing the project. Shooting is slated to begin in the spring in Los Angeles.

Munn is also playing a scientist in the upcoming actioner “The Predator” and appearing in the femme-centric heist movie “Ocean’s 8.”

Margot Robbie not only starred as notorious figure skater Tonya Harding in the off-kilter biopic “I, Tonya,” for which she earned her first Academy Award nomination for best actress, but she also produced the acclaimed film under her LuckyChap Entertainment banner. 30West photo

Margot Robbie not only starred as notorious figure skater Tonya Harding in the off-kilter biopic “I, Tonya,” for which she earned her first Academy Award nomination for best actress, but she also produced the acclaimed film under her LuckyChap Entertainment banner. 30West photo

Margot Robbie to go produce femme-focused Shakespeare series

Oscar-nominated Australian actress Margot Robbie and her LuckyChap Entertainment production company is partnering with the Australian Broadcasting Company, the Aussie production company Hoodlum (“Secrets & Lies”) and ABC Studios International on a new 10-part series that will retell the work of beloved English playwright William Shakespeare from female perspectives.

Deadline Hollywood reports that the project, which is in development, will be produced in Australia, with filming expected to begin this year.

Although it doesn’t yet have a title, the project will be led by a female creative team who will produce 10 standalone episodes, each based on a celebrated work by The Bard that will be revamped to comment on our present-day society.

Hoodlum, LuckyChap and ABC Studios International will work with women writers and writer­-directors to update Shakespeare’s works with distinct voices, and reflect different cultures, according to Deadline. Giula Sandler (“Nowhere Boys”), who created the concept, will work across the series and write an episode.

Robbie not only starred as notorious figure skater Tonya Harding in the off-kilter biopic “I, Tonya,” for which she earned her first Academy Award nomination for best actress, but she also produced the acclaimed film. Her LuckyChap banner was responsible for the film, which not only earned nearly $30 million on a $5 million price tag but also earned Oscar nods for Allison Janney for supporting actress and best film editing, with Janney snagging the statuette.

Back in December it was announced that LuckyChap closed a two-year first-look deal with Warner Bros. Television. So, I’m hoping that maybe this incredible plan for a femme-focused Shakespearean series could perhaps make its way to America soon.

From left, Lupita Nyong'o, Chadwick Boseman and Letitia Wright star in "Black Panther." Marvel Studios photo

From left, Lupita Nyong’o, Chadwick Boseman and Letitia Wright star in “Black Panther.” Marvel Studios photo

Inclusion rules at the box office in 2018

Back in February when “Black Panther” started its historic box-office run, I wondered what it would take to finally get Hollywood to realize that inclusion and diversity aren’t just feel-good buzz words but actual concepts it should embrace not only because it’s the right thing to do but also because it’s the profitable thing.

If the major studios were waiting for more evidence that inclusion sells, they’ve got it.

Films with women or minorities in lead roles led the box office 11 out of the first 12 weekends this year, reports CNN, citing information from the box-office tracking site Box Office Mojo.

In the same 12-week period in 2017, only five weekends were dominated by films with women or minorities in the lead: “Hidden Figures” topped the box office for two weeks, “Get Out” for one and “Beauty and the Beast” for two.

This year’s box-office tally started with a sleeper hit – the long-awaited sequel “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” – taking the top domestic box-office spot in the first three weekends of 2018. The film, which stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Kevin Hart, opened on Dec. 20 with a $36.1 million take. “Jumanji” went on to wrangle more than $942 million worldwide.

Up until now, the only weekend in which a film with a white male lead actor had won the box office came when “Maze Runner: The Death Cure,” starring Dylan O’Brien, knocked “Jumanji” off the top spot at the North American box office on the weekend of Jan. 26.

But “Jumanji” again took over the summit the following weekend. The action-adventure sequel was finally dethroned by a movie focused on a female character: “Fifty Shades Freed,” the final installment in the “Fifty Shades” trilogy. The film, which stars Dakota Johnson, nabbed $38.5 million in its opening weekend, right before Valentine’s Day.

“Black Panther” – with Chadwick Boseman leading a mostly black cast that includes several talented women in key roles – pounced into theaters on Feb. 16, bringing in a four-day Presidents’ Day holiday weekend total of $241.9 million. It broke records for the biggest three-day opening for February and the biggest opening for an African-American director (Ryan Coogler).

The latest blockbuster installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe kept dominating the box office in February bringing in $1 billion worldwide in less than a month, according to CNN. It reigned in the top spot at the domestic box office five weekends in a row – a feat last achieved by 2009′s “Avatar.”

As previously reported, the weekend of March 9 marked the first time in recent memory, and possibly ever, that films by African-American directors have claimed the No. 1 and No. 2 spots on the same weekend, with Coogler’s “Black Panther” again topping the box office, while Ava DuVernay’s adaptation “A Wrinkle in Time,” which boasts a black female protagonist in Storm Reid as young heroine Meg Murry, opened in the second-place spot.

“Black Panther’s” rule at the top of the box office finally came to an end last weekend, but it was dropped into the second place by another movie starring a person of color: the Universal action sequel “Pacific Rim Uprising,” led by “Star Wars” actor John Boyega, opened at $28 million in North America.

As Deadline Hollywood reports, the streak of movies with people of color and women in the lead finishing at No. 1 at the box office will end this weekend as Steven Spielberg’s action-packed “Ready Player One,” an adaptation of Ernest Cline’s best-seller starring Tye Sheridan, is expected to top the list.

Still, 11 out of 13 weeks with films starring women or minorities in lead roles at No. 1 is a yet another pretty big indicator that inclusion is a winning strategy. Is Hollywood finally seeing the light? Will Tinseltown act accordingly? We shall see.

-BAM

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