WEEK IN WOMEN news roundup: Carrie Fisher to appear in ‘Star Wars: Episode IX,’ Natasha Rothwell joins cast of sequel ‘Wonder Woman 1984,’ ‘Birds of Prey’ scribe Christina Hodson says Harley Quinn character will benefit from having a woman writer

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

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

Although there is perhaps nothing so heartbreaking as missed opportunities to achieve greatness, a new hope for “Star Wars” fans rippled across the galaxy Friday when casting was announced for “Episode IX.”

As expected, returning cast members include Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo and Billie Lourd, according to StarWars.com. Joining the cast of “Episode IX” are Naomi Ackie, Richard E. Grant and, as previously reported, Keri Russell, which is an exciting addition.

The plot thickens with the announcement of the return of original “Star Wars” trilogy performers Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Anthony Daniels (C3-PO) Billy Dee Williams (finally reprising his role as Lando Calrissian) and the late Carrie Fisher as the princess-turned-general Leia Organa.

Fisher, who died Dec. 27, 2016, from cardiac arrest at the age of 60, will be included in “Episode IX” using previously unreleased footage shot for the saga’s 2015 comeback installment, “Star Wars: VII – The Force Awakens,” according to the announcement.

“We desperately loved Carrie Fisher,” said J.J. Abrams, who directed and co-wrote “The Force Awakens” and is doing the same on the as-yet-otherwise-untitled “Episode IX,” in a statement. “Finding a truly satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker saga without her eluded us. We were never going to recast, or use a CG character. With the support and blessing from her daughter, Billie, we have found a way to honor Carrie’s legacy and role as Leia in ‘Episode IX’ by using unseen footage we shot together in ‘Episode VII.’”

Since “Episode IX” is billed as “the final installment of the Skywalker saga,” I’m happy to see that Carrie Fisher will be featured in the film. For me, “The Force Awakens” always seemed like it was meant to have more of Leia’s story in it, so I’m hopeful that there was plenty of footage left on the cutting room floor that now will become vital to the final chapter of the Skywalker clan’s space-faring adventures.

Although Fisher filmed some powerful Leia moments for Rian Johnson’s “Episode VIII,” “The Last Jedi,” before she died, there’s no doubt that one of the tragedies of Fisher’s sudden and untimely passing is the missed opportunity to delve more deeply into the character she became most known and beloved for playing.

With the original “Star Wars” trilogy, Fisher’s Princess Leia instantly became one of the most groundbreaking, inspiring and interesting female characters to ever appear on a movie screen, and Fisher, Abrams and others at Lucasfilm rightly built on that legacy with the current trilogy, allowing the Rebel princess, intergalactic senator and undercover intelligence officer to grow into a still-commanding Resistance leader, a military general who looked her age but still had an undeniably beautiful and timeless quality that never overshadowed how tough, smart and resilient she was.

The shame is that not one filmmaker in this whole saga fully explored her in a way that satisfied me as a moviegoer, woman or film critic. We can derive a few background facts from the original trilogy, the prequels and the current saga, but we never really got to delve into the nature of the woman who was regal enough to convincingly wear the title of princess (even when Han Solo tried to turn it into an insult), fearless enough to disguise herself as a bounty hunter and invade Jabba the Hutt’s palace to save the man she loved and, most impressively, steely enough to face down the formidable Darth Vader without flinching.

With the Han Solo origin film “Solo: A Star Wars Story” underperforming at the box office, it’s hard to imagine that Lucasfilm will give us a prequel that helps us get to know Leia better. Unfortunately, the Lucasfilm folks seemed to think there would be plenty of time to dig a little deeper into Leia’s psyche with Fisher. But it’s never wise to assume you have plenty of time for anything, because nothing lasts forever.

While I don’t think we’ll get the full Leia treatment that we and Fisher deserved with “Episode IX,” her character is too indelible to leave our cinematic universe by simply fading away or dying offscreen. Hopefully, Fisher’s daughter, Lourd, and the others who loved her and Leia will ensure that the leftover footage will repurposed to make her final “Star Wars” moments something worthy of princess and a general.

As Hamill, whose Luke Skywalker moved on to another plane and will presumably return as a Force ghost in “Episode IX,” said Sunday on Twitter, it will be bittersweet to carry on without his cinematic sister.

“It’s bittersweet facing my final chapter without her-She is simply irreplaceable. I’m finding solace in the fact that she won’t BE replaced & would love the worldwide outpouring of affection from those who loved her when they heard the news. #CarrieOnForever, “Hamill wrote Sunday on Twitter.

“Episode IX” will begin filming Wednesday at London’s Pinewood Studios. Abrams co-wrote the screenplay with Chris Terrio.

Composer John Williams, who has scored every chapter in the “Star Wars” saga since 1977’s “A New Hope,” will return to a galaxy far, far away with “Episode IX,” according to the announcement.

“Star Wars: Episode IX” will be produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Abrams and Michelle Rejwan, and executive produced by Callum Greene and Jason McGatlin. The crew includes Dan Mindel (Director of Photography), Rick Carter and Kevin Jenkins (Co-Production Designers), Michael Kaplan (Costume Designer), Neal Scanlan (Creature and Droid FX), Maryann Brandon and Stefan Grube (Editors), Roger Guyett (VFX Supervisor), Tommy Gormley (1st AD), and Victoria Mahoney (2nd Unit Director).

The film’s release is scheduled for December 2019.

Gal Gadot is shown in a scene from "Wonder Woman 1984." Warner Bros. photo

Gal Gadot is shown in a scene from “Wonder Woman 1984.” Warner Bros. photo

Natasha Rothwell joins cast of sequel ‘Wonder Woman 1984’

Natasha Rothwell, who stars in and also writes for the HBO series “Insecure,” is joining Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman” sequel, “Wonder Woman 1984,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

She joins fellow franchise newcomers Kristen Wiig (“Bridesmaids”), who as previously reported, will play Wonder Woman nemesis the Cheetah, and Pedro Pascal (“Game of Thrones”), along with returning stars Gal Gadot and Chris Pine.

Although the plot details are being kept closely guarded secrets, the film, which is currently in production, will be set in the 1980s, as the title indicates. Along with Diana Prince / Wonder Woman (Gadot) facing off against Wiig’s Cheetah, it also surprisingly bring back Pine as World War I spy, pilot and hero Steve Trevor.

Jenkins, Gadot and Pine were on hand at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con to debut footage from the follow-up that saw Wonder Woman in a mall food court dealing with two bad guys, which sounds just super ‘80s.

Along with her dual role with “Insecure,” Rothwell previously wrote for “Saturday Night Live” and was recently seen in Fox 2000’s romantic drama “Love, Simon.”

“Wonder Woman 1984” is due in theaters Nov. 1, 2019.

Margot Robbie appears as Harley Quinn in the 2016 film "Suicide Squard." Warner Bros. Pictures photo

Margot Robbie appears as Harley Quinn in the 2016 film “Suicide Squard.” Warner Bros. Pictures photo

‘Birds of Prey’ scribe says Harley Quinn character will benefit from having a woman writer

Christina Hodson, who has been tapped to write the script for Margot Robbie’s “Harley Quinn” spinoff “Birds of Prey,” says that having a woman writing the movie changes everything for the colorful DC Comics villain (or anti-hero, depending on what comic, cartoon or movie you’re looking at).

“Harley is such a complicated character, she was created by a man, and I think he did an amazing job with her, but she is … flawed, complicated, has so many different angles,” Hodson told Variety at the Future of Film Is Female discussion at the trade publication’s Comic-Con Studio during the San Diego, California, convention.

Hodson said she hates when Quinn gets written as just “someone’s plus-one” for the iconic Batman baddie the Joker, and is looking to write her as her own person in the upcoming film.

“She was born as Joker’s girlfriend and Joker’s love interest,” Hodson said. “And she’s so much more than that, so I’m excited to see her as her own person.”

As previously reported, Hodson — who penned the upcoming “Transformers” spinoff “Bumblebee,” which is due in theaters Dec. 21 — also has been tapped to write a new script for another big upcoming DC Comics movie: “Batgirl.”

And Hodson won’t be the only woman helping to keep Harley Quinn’s ongoing cinematic exploits authentic: As previously reported, Cathy Yan, a breakout writer-director from this year’s Sundance Film Festival, is expected to helm “Birds of Prey,” making her the first female director of Asian heritage to direct a superhero movie.

Michael Greyeyes and Jessica Chastain star in "Woman Walks Ahead," a 2018 deadCenter Film Festival selection. A24 photo

Michael Greyeyes and Jessica Chastain star in “Woman Walks Ahead,” a 2018 deadCenter Film Festival selection. A24 photo

Oklahoma City’s deadCenter Film Festival opens 2019 call for entries Wednesday

OKLAHOMA CITY – The 19th annual deadCenter Film Festival in my home-base of Oklahoma City will open the submission process for filmmakers beginning Wednesday.

As I reported on my BAM’s Blog, the 2019 edition of deadCenter will take place Thursday, June 6, through Sunday, June 9, in downtown Oklahoma City.

Submissions can be made through Film Freeway at filmfreeway.com. The early bird deadline is Oct. 31, with entry fees varying considering the type of submission: $40 for narrative and documentary features, $25 for live action and documentary shorts, animations, music videos and Oklahoma films, and $20 for college films.

High school films are free to submit, according to a news release.

Films will be selected in the following categories: narrative feature, documentary feature, live action short, documentary short, animation, student film, virtual cinema, music video, and Oklahoma film.

More than 1,200 films were submitted from around the world in 2018, and 135 were selected for official screenings. As previously reported, the 2018 festival attracted a record-breaking 33,000 people, generating an economic impact of more than $5.3 million for Oklahoma City.

deadCenter Film, named for its central geographic location in Oklahoma City (the center of the U.S.), is Oklahoma’s largest film festival and has been named one of the “Top 20 Coolest Film Festivals in the World” and among the “Top 50 Festivals Worth the Entry Fee” according to MovieMaker magazine.

For any female filmmakers out there, consider this your personal invitation to submit your work for OKC’s awesome film fest.



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