THE WEEK IN WOMEN news roundup: ‘Wonder Woman’ Oscar campaign, Jessica Chastain’s X-Men antagonist, Hedy Lamarr documentary and Alfre Woodard’s lionesque role

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Gal Gadot plays the titular hero in "Wonder Woman." Warner Bros. photo

Gal Gadot plays the titular hero in “Wonder Woman.” Warner Bros. photo

Warner Bros. is reportedly planning an epic Oscar campaign to help “Wonder Woman” add the first comic-book film nominated for best picture to the list of box-office records and glass ceilings the DC Comics origin story has already scored.

Variety reports that the studio also will tout “Wonder Woman” helmer Patty Jenkins for best director. No director of a comic-book film — not even “The Dark Knight” trilogy mastermind Christopher Nolan — has ever been nominated, and only men have ruled the category and except for Kathryn Bigelow’s historic best director win for “The Hurt Locker” in 2010, the filed has been dominated by men. (With statistics like we discussed here last week on the dismal number of women actually getting to direct movies, it’s hardly a surprise.)

After Warner. Bros.’ aforementioned “The Dark Knight,” failed to secure a best picture nod in 2009, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences expanded the category from five to a maximum of 10 nominations. While blockbusters like “Gravity” and “The Martian” have made the cut, Variety notes that a comic-book movie has yet to compete in the top race.

Although the Academy has historically been too stuffy to recognize a movie starring Batman or Deadpool as art. But with the Academy expanding to bring in a younger and more diverse membership, including “Wonder Woman” star Gal Gadot, Warner Bros. executives are hopeful this will boost the powerful Amazonian’s chances of lassoing a best picture nod.

“Wonder Woman” has stellar reviews going for it, but if the superhero team-up “Justice League,” which comes out in November and co-stars Gadot, gets the kind of dismal reviews other DC Comics film adaptations like “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” earned, “Wonder Woman’s” Oscar prospects could definitely take a hit.

As previously reported, “Wonder Woman” already has broken a number of records, including  the highest-grossing movie ever directed by a woman. To read my “Wonder Woman” review, click here.

Jessica Chastain appears in "The Martian." 20th Century Fox photo

Jessica Chastain appears in “The Martian.” 20th Century Fox photo

Jessica confirmed as antagonist of ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’

Two-time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain has officially confirmed her role as the lead villain in next year’s “X-Men: Dark Phoenix.”

After the critically acclaimed success this year of “Logan,” ScreenRant reports that 20th Century Fox is preparing to release its most ambitious wave of X-Men films ever in 2018. Along with highly anticipated titles like “Deadpool 2” and “New Mutants,” the studio will be continuing its main X-Men saga with “Dark Phoenix” be “X-Men: Dark Phoenix,” which will be both written and directed by Simon Kinberg, a veteran writer and producer on the franchise who will be making his directorial debut.

“Dark Phoenix” will pick up where last year’s “X-Men: Apocalypse” left off and follow Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey as she begins her transformation into the Dark Phoenix. It will be the second attempt to bring one of the venerable comic-book series’ signature storylines to the big screen after 2005’s much-maligned “X-Men: The Last Stand.”

With production underway on “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” in Montreal, Chastain finally confirmed her long-rumored involvement in the film in a fun Instagram post featuring James McAvoy, who plays Professor X in the X-Men franchise, in which she promised “Im gonna make you cry so hard.”

McAvoy previously costarred with Chastain in the 2014 film “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby.”

Chastain will be playing Lilandra in the sequel. According IGN, Lilandra Neramani in the Marvel Comics is the Princess-Majestrix of the Shi’ar Empire, a humanoid species with birdlike attributes. She also became a longtime love interest of Professor Charles Xavier.

Even as she plays an X-Men antagonist onscreen, Chastain is continuing in her role as outspoken feminist off camera. As Variety reports, Chastain recently took to Twitter to call out CBS for the network’s lack of female leads in its fall lineup.

“I’ll just Netflix and chill. Or some HBO greatness. Or anything by Ryan Murphy,” Chastain tweeted. “There’s so many incredible options that don’t include CBS.”

Her tweet comes in response to news that came out of the Television Critics Association panel, when CBS senior executive vice president Thom Sherman was asked about the network’s continued lack of diversity in its programming.

“We had six pilots with female leads and the way things turned out those pilots were not deemed to be as good as the pilots that were picked up,” he said.

Alfre Woodard appears in the Marvel Comics-based series "Luke Cage." Netflix photo

Alfre Woodard appears in the Marvel Comics-based series “Luke Cage.” Netflix photo

Alfre Woodard added to ‘Lion King’ remake

Alfre Woodard, who is an Oklahoma native like me, will provide the voice of Simba’s mom in director Jon Favreau’s remake of Disney’s “The Lion King,” I reported on my BAM’s Blog.

The Oscar nominee (for 1983’s “Cross Creek”) will be voicing the regal lioness Sarabi, joining Donald Glover as Simba and James Earl Jones, who will be reprising his role as Mufasa.

“Coming to America” actress Madge Sinclair, who died in 1995, voiced Sarabi in the original 1994 Disney animated movie.

The remake’s cast also includes Seth Rogen as Pumbaa, Billy Eichner as Timon, John Oliver as Zazu and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar.

Jeff Nathanson (“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”) wrote the script for Disney, with Favreau and Jeffrey Silver producing. “The Lion King” is currently shooting in Los Angeles. Like Favreau’s hit 2016 remake of “The Jungle Book,” the new “Lion King” is supposed to be reimagined using more realistic computer-generated animation.

Like Ejiofor (“Doctor Strange”), Woodard is already part of the Disney family through its Marvel branch: She had a small role in the big-screen smash “Captain America: Civil War” and co-starred in the Netflix release “Luke Cage.”

John Kani, who played Black Panther’s father King T’Chaka in “Captain America: Civil War,” also is newly cast in the remake as Rafiki, the baboon who serves as the adviser to Mufasa, Sarabi and the royal family in the Pride Lands.

An Oklahoma Hall of Famer, Woodard was most recently seen in the Sundance Film Festival standout “Burning Sands,” and she will next appear in “Saint Judy,” where she will play a judge opposite Common and Michelle Monaghan, and Clark Johnson’s “Juanita,” in which she plays the title role as a woman seeking to reinvent herself.

Hedy Lamarr is seen in the documentary "Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story." Zeitgeist Films photo

Hedy Lamarr is seen in the documentary “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story.” Zeitgeist Films photo

‘Bombshell’ Hedy Lamarr documentary coming to silver screens

Hedy Lamarr will return to silver screens as Zeitgeist Films, in association with Kino Lorber, has acquired distribution rights to “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story,” according to Variety.

Executive produced by Susan Sarandon, the biopic premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and won a best of the fest prize at the Nantucket Film Festival. It was directed by Alexandra Dean and produced by Adam Haggiag.

“Bombshell” will open at the IFC Center in New York on Nov. 24, followed by a nationwide rollout.

The Austrian actress lived a fascinating life story. She made the gutsy decision to appear nude at age 17 in the 1933 Czech film “Ecstasy.” Lamarr, who was born Jewish, later married a prominent Austrian businessman who became a weapons dealer to the Nazis, so she fled her husband in the middle of the night, boarding a boat for America with nothing to her name except a single designer gown. She eventually convinced MGM boss Louis B. Mayer to sign her to a deal.

Along with appearing in such films as “Samson and Delilah” and “The Strange Woman,” Lamarr was the secret inventor who helped the Allies win the war with a wireless form of communication called “frequency hopping,” which would go on to revolutionize communications all over the world — and perfected a radio system to throw Nazi torpedoes off course during World War II. Her work is considered the basis for Bluetooth and cellphone technology.

But her work – and Lamarr herself — was so undervalued at the time that by the end of her life she was a recluse, impoverished and virtually forgotten. She died in 2000.



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