THE WEEK IN WOMEN news roundup: Carrie Fisher out of ‘Star Wars: Episode IX,’ Cate Blanchett makes history as Marvel’s first female villain, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ crosses $1 billion, Reba McEntire reveals name of her new TV show

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Carrie Fisher appears as Gen. Organa at "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." Lucasfilm photo

Carrie Fisher appears as Gen. Organa at “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Lucasfilm photo

“Star Wars” fans will have their last opportunity to see Carrie Fisher play princess-turned-general Leia Organa when “Episode VIII – The Last Jedi” bows in theaters in December.

During an ABC interview during the just-wrapped Star Wars Celebration, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy said that Fisher, who died Dec. 27 at the age of 60, will not appear in “Episode IX,” despite early reports that Gen. Organa would have a prominent role in the 2019 release.

“Sadly, Carrie will not be in IX,” Kennedy told ABC. “We’ll see a lot of her in VIII, which is great.”

This news especially comes as a surprise after Fisher’s brother, Todd Fisher, told the New York Daily News that he and Fisher’s daughter, fellow “Star Wars” actress Billie Lourd, granted the studio rights to use recent footage for “Episode IX.”

“He was probably confused, because we finished everything in VIII — and Carrie is absolutely phenomenal in the movie. And we’re so happy that we were able to complete shooting in the summer. Unfortunately, Carrie passed away. By the time we were well underway with ‘Episode IX’ — in our thoughts, we had not written the script yet — but we regrouped and we started over in January.”

As previously reported, I was hoping that Lucasfilm would recast the role of Leia rather than writing her out of “Episode IX,” since I feel that’s the only real option that honors the fiercely feminist and refreshingly unsentimental Fisher. For 40 years, Princess Leia has been bigger than Fisher, and considering we’re still seeing a disparity in the number of women in cinematic leadership roles, I hate to see her run as an inspiration to women come to an abrupt end.

Let’s hope that Lucasfilm at least gives Gen. Organa a fitting send-off in “The Last Jedi.”

“I think that there was no greater honor than that of working with the late and truly great Carrie Fisher. She was unlike anyone you’ve known,” Kennedy told the crowd during the 2017 Star Wars Celebration.

The Chicago Tribune reports that, not surprisingly, the memory of Fisher loomed large over the celebration, which took place Thursday through Sunday in Orlando, Fla.

In what the Tribune’s Christopher Borelli called “a lovely ramble of a memorial,” Mark Hamill told stories as he paid tribute to “my beloved space-twin.”  He said she was a joy to be around “most of the time,” that she helped find him an apartment once, and that she would force him to wear crazy outfits and parade him around the studio lot.

Hamill also said that Fisher promised, if he died before her, she would heckle his funeral. “When I think of her now, I think of her looking from the celestial stratosphere with her big brown eyes and that wry smile and… she lovingly extends a middle finger.

“And that was Carrie.”

While we’re on the subject of “Star Wars,” the first teaser trailer for the “The Last Jedi” debuted Friday during the Star Wars Celebration, and you can watch it here. The follow-up to the 2015 blockbuster “The Force Awakens,” the film follows the continuing adventures of the Force prodigy Rey (Daisy Ridley) as she trains with Luke Skywalker (Hamill).

Directed by Rian Johnson (“Looper”), the eighth installment of the “Star Wars Saga” also stars John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Gwendoline Christie, Benicio del Toro, Laura Dern and, of course, the late Carrie Fisher.

Cate Blanchett plays Hela in "Thor: Ragnarok." Marvel photo

Cate Blanchett plays Hela in “Thor: Ragnarok.” Marvel photo

Cate Blanchett introduced as Marvel’s first female villain

Speaking of thrilling first teaser trailers, Marvel Studios debuted the initial look at Nov. 3’s “Thor: Ragnarok” Monday, and according to The Hollywood Reporter, the clip garnered more than 136 million views in only 24 hours.

It becomes the not only the most viewed Marvel trailer ever, but also the studio’s most viewed trailer ever across all its brands, “The Beauty and the Beast” trailer was the previous 24-hour record-holder for Disney with 127.6 million views. To view the trailer, click here.

Directed by Taika Waititi (“What We Do in the Shadows”), the third film in the “Thor” franchise, it stars Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner / The Hulk, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Idris Elba and Heimdall, Anthony Hopkins as Odin and Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Strange. The new installment introduces Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster, Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie and Cate Blanchett as Hela, the Goddess of Death.

Blanchett makes history in “Thor: Ragnarok” as the first female lead villain in a Marvel film. As CNN reports, there have been other female characters on the bad side of Marvel’s universe – like “Guardian of the Galaxy’s” Nebula (Karen Gillan) – but Hela is the first female lead baddie. And since the teaser shows her destroying Thor’s hammer, she looks to be a formidable foe.

“She arrives with a lot of baggage. She’s a little bit cross,” Blanchett told EW. “She’s been locked away for millennia, getting more and more cross, and then, with a mistake, she get unleashed and she ain’t getting back in that box.”

The two-time Oscar winner told EW she was eager to work with Waititi and can’t believe her role as a first female villain is still an issue in this day and age.

“Can you believe it? Can you believe we’re having this conversation and it’s 2017 and we’re talking about the first female villain? It’s ridiculous. There’s so much untapped potential villainy in women. It’s really exciting. I think finally it’s beginning to be acknowledged that women and men want to see a diverse array of characters, and that’s race, gender across the sexual spectrum,” she said.

“As a woman, these opportunities have not in the past come up very frequently and I think there’s a revolution happening from within Marvel.”

Dan Stevens plays The Beast, left, and Emma Watson plays Belle in the live-action adaptation of the animated classic "Beauty and the Beast." Disney photo

Dan Stevens plays The Beast, left, and Emma Watson plays Belle in the live-action adaptation of the animated classic “Beauty and the Beast.” Disney photo

‘Beauty and the Beast’ crosses $1 billion mark

Disney’s lavish live-action remake of “Beauty and the Beast” has officially crossed the $1 billion mark at the box office, according to Vanity Fair. The movie-musical version, starring Emma Watson, Dan Stevens and Luke Evans, is now this year’s highest grossing film worldwide.

It’s also the highest grossing movie musical of all time, outpacing “Grease” and “Chicago,” Vanity Fair reports, citing Disney.

Directed by Bill Condon, “Beauty and the Beast” is also now Disney’s most successful live-action remake to date, beating out “Cinderella,” the two “Alice in Wonderland” films, and “The Jungle Book.”

As previously reported, this “Beauty” got off to a smashing start, breaking several box-office records over the weekend.

The lavish movie-musical version of the fairytale story conjured up an incredible $170 million in North America and $350 million globally. Along the way, it became the biggest debut of all time for a female-fueled film, seeming to prove yet again that female protagonists can be strong both on screen and at the box office.

To read my review of “Beauty and the Beast,” click here.

Reba McEntire. Photo provided

Reba McEntire. Photo provided

Reba McEntire returning to TV in Marc Cherry drama

Oklahoma native Reba McEntire has revealed the name of her new TV drama from “Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry.

In an exclusive interview with CMT’s Cody Alan, McEntire said the “Southern Gothic soap opera” has been titled “Red Blooded.” She said it has shot its pilot episode and all seems to be well with its potential network home.

“(ABC) had two notes for us: ‘Expand upon this and expand upon that,’” McEntire said. “It wasn’t ‘Take that out’ or ‘Fix (this).’ We’re thrilled to pieces …

“Hopefully … ABC will say it’s a go,” McEntire added, “and we’ll start filming in middle of July.”

In “Red Blooded,” the country singer and actor is playing Ruby Adair, a sheriff in small-town Kentucky who has her views challenged and starts to see the world differently after a young FBI agent of Middle Eastern descent arrives to help with a case.

“I’m a dark character,” McEntire told Alan. “I’ve got a lot of flaws and demons, and I’m having a lot of problems in my personal life. My town is being disrupted, and I’m having to deal with it all. I’m under a lot of stress.”

The TV project marks McEntire’s return to TV after her sitcom “Reba” ran for six seasons, first on the WB and later on the CW. The Country Music Hall of Famer previously was on ABC on her short-lived 2012-13 show “Malibu Country.” She has since made guest appearances on the ABC series “Last Man Standing,” opposite Tim Allen, and on the Freeform (formerly ABC Family) show “Baby Daddy,” opposite her former “Reba” co-star Melissa Peterman.

“Red Blooded” will mark her first television drama. In addition to creating “Red Blooded,” Cherry also will act as the drama’s showrunner, along with his longtime producing partner Sabrina Wind.

“He’s wonderful. I’ve been a fan of his since the beginning of ‘Desperate Housewives,’ and he’s fun to be around. He’s witty. He is a genius,” McEntire told me in a recent interview.

“We’re both from Oklahoma, and he grew up in that small town. So, he draws from characters that he knew – and some of ‘em are broad, but you know people just like that when you live in a small town. You know, there’s people in small towns I grew up in, you’re like ‘Oh, my gosh,’ if you put that in a TV show, everybody would think you just made it up. But that’s that character. That’s the gift that he has of bringing that character to life.”

To read more of my interview with Reba, click here.


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