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Lupita Nyong'o Eyed For High-Profile Studio Project. But What Could It Be?

by Natasha Greeves
March 3, 2014 3:25 PM
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Oprah Winfrey & Lupita Nyong'o In 'Ruined'?

After reading Tambay's post before this one, wondering what's next for director Steve McQueen, I went searching for any news on projects that Lupita Nyong'o may be considering, but didn't find any hints of anything, since she hasn't shared much, other than that she's fielding offers.

I did come across an article on The Hollywood Reporter website published today in which she says that, one of those offers is for "a high-profile Hollywood studio project," but she didn't give any further details, except to say that she'll be "listening to her gut" before making any final decisions on what she does next.

And as we've said already, everyone is dying to know what Lupita Nyong'o will do next. We're all wondering what this high-profile studio project is that Hollywood is eyeing her for. 

Earlier today, Shonda Rhimes tweeted the following:

I'm obsessed with Lupita. Lupita is everything right now.

To which we replied via the S&A Twitter account:

Cast her in something :)

Shonda didn't respond to us, not surprisingly, but a few folks retweeted our reply, so she'll probably see it when she checks her Twitter "mentions." 

Or was that Shonda's way of hinting to us that Lupita just might be starring in an upcoming Shonda Rhimes project? Probably not, but, she's already indicated that she's thinking about Lupita, who is an actress, and Shonda is a writer/series creator/showrunner, so it's a match that makes obvious sense. It all starts with a thought, and Shonda has had one, which she shared, so you never know. 

Viola Davis just booked the starring role in one of a handful of upcoming new Shonda Rhimes series, titled How To Get Away With Murder. Might there be room for Lupita in the Shondaland universe? 

Rhimes will be returning to her feature film roots, as was announced last summer (her breakthrough was co-penning the script for the 1999 telepic Introducing Dorothy Dandridge; other early scripting credits include Crossroads and The Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement); She's writing the screenplay for a feature drama titled War Correspondents, which centers on women war correspondents, for Sony's Columbia Pictures.

"Shonda first explored the idea of a story about female war correspondents for television, but over the years, it's become a much bigger story and we're thrilled that she sees a way to do it on the big screen. She has a great take on the material and we have a consummate producer on board with Mark Gordon and believe this will make a terrific feature film," said Hannah Minghella, president of production at Columbia Pictures, in a statement last July, when the project was announced.

Rhimes shared that she wanted to do a show about "a woman carrying a gun and kicking people's butts" in the vein of J.J. Abrams' Alias. “I would have loved to have been the person who came up with it. I don’t think it's been done by a woman. And that's where my mind is.”

That sounds like it could be something for Lupita, yes? Whether as a TV show or a feature film, which is what it will now be. But the project seems to have evolved since the days when she planned for it to be a TV series. So it's not known just how much gun-carrying and butt-kicking will be incorporated into this story about war correspondents, who are journalists who cover stories firsthand from war zones, and is considered the most dangerous form of journalism. It should be exciting though.

No casting for that project are public yet, and no word on when Sony is eyeing its release.

Another possibility is starring in the film adaptation of playwright Lynn Nottage’s 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Ruined, which, long-time readers of this blog will recall, was optioned by none-other-than Oprah Winfrey in 2010 (Oprah being another powerful black woman in entertainment, like Shonda Rhimes, who has also shared how much she's been taken by Lupita).

Oprah was attached to play Mama Nadi, the tough brothel/bar-keeper, trying to make a buck in the chaos of civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The title, Ruined, refers to a woman’s "condition" after she is raped, and genitally mutilated.

Mama Nadi runs a brothel. She buys girls from a traveling salesmen, offers them food and shelter, and, in exchange, they prostitute themselves to the locals and soldiers passing through.

The play was Condola Rashad's coming out party. In 2009, she received much praise and awards for her performance as Sophie, a young Congolese woman who has been raped, leaving her genitals mutilated and her social standing in her village, well, utterly ruined, hence the title of the play.

It's a plump role, for which Rashad won the Theatre World Award for Best Debut Performance while it was an Off-Broadway production, and she was also nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play.

It is that role that Lupita just might be considered for, assuming the project is still in the works. It's a somewhat similar kind of character that she played in 12 Years A Slave, in the sense that the character is also marginalized and suffers greatly, mostly in silence.

So Lupita may be turned off by the idea - at least initially - and might want to do something totally different first, before tackling another similarly heavy dramatic performance. She also won't want to put herself in a position to be typecast, if she takes a similar role to the one she just played.

But it's the kind of role that can win awards for the right actress (as Condola Rashad proved). So if Oprah is still considering a Ruined film adaptation, she might now have Lupita in her sights to co-star alongside her. Of course it'll ultimately be Lupita's decision.

At the time of the announcement in 2010, no director and no other actors had been attached, although we knew that Nottage would be adapting her own play to script format.

Of course all of this is nothing but speculation. I'm just looking at projects that have been announced that Lupita might be a good fit for. For all we know, the "high-profile" project she's being eyed for by a studio could be Michael Bay's next movie. 

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More: Lupita Nyong'o, Oprah Winfrey, Shonda Rhimes

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  • dl | March 4, 2014 6:57 AMReply

    black women especially HAVE To support lupita coz once the hype dies down who else will support her? we all saw what happened to Freida pinto she was feted EXACTLY like lupita and here is she now? EXACTLY! so please lets not let the same happen to this special and luminous woman.

  • noshonda! | March 3, 2014 10:32 PMReply

    Please Lupita, stay faaaaar away from Shonda Rhimes. She seems to specialize in having black women satisfy the lust of white men.

  • jj | March 4, 2014 7:03 PM

    oh shut the hell up.

  • L | March 3, 2014 10:09 PMReply

    She could have been cast as Nina Simone

  • DJ | March 4, 2014 11:06 AM

    Adepero Oduye would have been perfect: she looks the part, has the chops, she's still fresh and anonymous enough to wider audiences to disappear into the role and not distract.

  • Whaaaa | March 4, 2014 1:23 AM

    With those dainty features? Zoe Saldana, Lanie Kazan, and Michael Chiklis look more like Simone than Nyongo'o does.

  • A | March 3, 2014 6:51 PMReply

    I so appreciate that an african women played this part, perhaps ppl will remember that is what actually happened and not treat black women in this country with such contempt as if they have no homeland. I hope she continues with good scripts and her own work, she directed a film about discrimination and albinoism in college, look forward to seeing good work from her.

  • a | March 3, 2014 6:47 PMReply

    The thought makes me shudder, shes an extrodinary talent, unfortunately it took a british film to highlight this, esp when the last film to truly portray the dignity of africans in america was the color purple, with a few hits or misses (glory, x, roots, etc) and that lost to a story about a disease ( out of africa) the american cinema is still living in a fantasy world refusing to deal with reality of black beauty and folks in america

  • Mike | March 3, 2014 6:11 PMReply

    It's the stars war movie dummies

  • amrk | March 3, 2014 5:42 PMReply

    Not a flattering pic of The Oprah. Truthful, but not flattering. Particularly not, next to that Natural Nubian Goddess.

  • Nancy | March 4, 2014 7:06 PM

    Lupita isn't Nubian she's Luo she's Kenyan no Sudanese lol

  • Well | March 4, 2014 1:33 AM

    What Lea probably meant is: what the f*ck do Oprah's looks have to do with anything and who the f*ck are you that you think anyone cares to hear your opinions on these women's physical appearances? We don't see you saying that shit about Steve McQueen or Barkhad Abdi

  • amrk | March 3, 2014 9:00 PM

    Lea, why did you pick MY comment to leech onto? You could have gone ANYwhere with that bit of genius, really.

  • Lea | March 3, 2014 7:05 PM

    So what?

  • C. | March 3, 2014 5:06 PMReply

    Some people (like myself) believe that it would be wonderful to see Lupita in a new "Aida" movie adaptation. Even if it was from the Disney's musical.

    I hope that she has long and beautiful career.

  • stp | March 3, 2014 4:57 PMReply

    She's gonna get picked up in the new Tyler show, 'I could do good all by myself."

  • DJ | March 3, 2014 4:00 PMReply

    "Lupita is everything right now."

    This is sort of the obnoxious, shark-like reactions that always lathers to the top once the "it" gal sticker (i.e., stigma) is at play. Book 'em and book 'em and discard. The luckier ones are wise about it and maybe sustain a career. But it seems like the more inevitable happens, a slow dissolve into the background: Gabourey, Adepero, Danai Gurira... You can argue they're all getting solid work, but still a pernicious game, the Hollywood game.

  • Jen Jen | March 4, 2014 4:30 PM

    DJ, I would argue that Gabourey, Adepero, and Danai did not have nearly as much buzz as Lupita is experiencing now. I don't think it's a fair comparison.

  • Adam Scott Thompson | March 3, 2014 5:08 PM

    Not every actor is a star per se; an Oscar won't automatically confer such status. That's why the Tom Cruises of the world will never suffer for not having won an Oscar. He and Will Smith and Brad Pitt (who won last night for producing) were already major. An Oscar would just be the cherry on top, if you will.

    Someone like N'yongo, on the other hand, who Hollywood may not know what to do with, will experience supernova-level pull for the next calendar year -- and she'd do well to make the most of it. That's all an Academy Award really represents: You're hot right now (and until the next Oscars ceremony) and thus studios seek to capitalize on your current swagger.

    For some people the Oscar is just an industry confirmation of their awesomeness (Scorcese, for instance), but for many others it represents marketing clout -- getting picked for the hot new films because studios can put "Academy Award winner __________" in the press materials. N'yongo may never rise to the heights she achieved with "12 Years" again, but she may have assured herself a steady and unbroken career -- which is more than most (of any demographic) can hope for.

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