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Chiwetel Ejiofor, Dominic Cooper & Thandie Newton To Star In Adaptation Of Bestseller 'Half Of A Yellow Sun'

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by Oliver Lyttelton
January 25, 2012 9:22 AM
25 Comments
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It's not been documented much abroad, but Nigeria has one of the most vibrant, active film scenes in the world; over the last couple of decades, it's overtaken the United States to become the nation that produces the second largest quantities of film per year, behind only India. And while the films and stars of "Nollywood," as it's nicknamed, haven't yet crossed over to the Western mainstream, it's surely only a matter of time before their influence becomes felt. And now, it's been announced that Nigerian backers are teaming with British producers for a star-laden adaptation of a novel that tells a key part of the nation's history.

Screen Daily reports that producers Andrea Calderwood ("The Last King of Scotland," "Generation Kill") and Gail Egan ("Happy-Go-Lucky," "The Constant Gardener") have fully financed, thanks to help from both Nigerian private equity and the British Film Instute, their adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's bestselling novel "Half of a Yellow Sun." The novel, which won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2007, is set during the Nigerian-Biafran War of 1967-1970, when the south of Nigeria attempted to secede and form their own country, the Republic of Biafra, and tracks a revolutionary university professor, his lover, her sister, a British ex-pat, and their houseboy, who are cought up in the conflict across the 1960s.

Nigerian playwright Biyi Bandele, who's had a number of successes on the London stage, including his adaptation of seminal post-colonial novel "Things Fall Apart," is making his directorial debut with the project, and he's assembled quite an impressive cast, with Chiwetel Ejiofor, Dominic Cooper and Thandie Newton all locked into the film. The trade don't have a firm word on who each is playing, but our guess is that Ejiofor will play university professor Odenigbo, Newton his lover, Olanna, and Cooper will play Richard, a British ex-pat in Nigeria to study. 

It's a pretty terrific cast, not least a rare lead role for Ejiofor, one of our favorite working actors, while the presence of Cooper hot off "The Devil's Double" and "Captain America: The First Avenger" will undoubtedly help the film internationally. Filming starts in March, before Ejiofor segues to Steve McQueen's "Twelve Years A Slave," so we're unlikely to see this before 2013, but it certainly seems to be a film to keep an eye on.

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25 Comments

  • KD | April 3, 2012 3:10 AMReply

    Go on Thandie! do your thing! cant wait to see you play Olanna!

  • Bukuru | March 18, 2012 9:12 PMReply

    Love fiction? Read 'Burning Wind' Now on Amazon.

  • Abiola | March 14, 2012 3:46 PMReply

    let's see how the movie plays out....how she would pull off the "igbo phrases"...i would really like to know....

  • anon | February 17, 2012 12:59 PMReply

    considering that it is nigerian finaced why thandie? great actress and she is half zimbawean but even sofie okenado would be better at least she is half nigerian lol! however a fully BLACK WOMEN would be best. When i first read it i thought it was actually a nigerian made film and i was geting excited that they could attract the calibre of actors such as chiw and thandie alas its not.

  • Nkiliejiafo Ahumibe | February 1, 2012 11:07 AMReply

    I'm extremely disappointed that Thandie has been cast to play Olanna, this is an insult to Igbo women every where! If Thandie had any integrity she would do the right thing and decline the role, but she won't, she clearly basks in the fact that her diluted African ancestry is an asset in a white supremacist world.

  • KD | April 3, 2012 3:08 AM

    Na wa o. Thandie is an actor now. that's what actors do. they take on completely different characters from themselves. the Igbo language no be language? anybody can learn to speak any language on this planet fluently. chill out the sentiments abeg.

  • Sugabelly | January 27, 2012 2:12 PMReply

    Sorry but Thandie is an awful choice. There are MANY talented Igbo actresses in Hollywood that could play the role of Olanna.

    Sophie Okonedo is an Igbo actress that would be EXCELLENT. She has proven to be an enormously talented actress and best of all SHE WON'T MURDER THE IGBO LANGUAGE and she ACTUALLY LOOKS IGBO.

    Another Igbo actress is Caroline Chikezie, who since she is darker skinned can act as Kainene, Olanna's sister.

    I'm sorry but Thandie Newton is not only a Zimbabwean, but is going to absolutely DESTROY the character with her horrible Igbo. =(

  • anon | February 17, 2012 1:02 PM

    yeah i forgot about Caroline Chikezie she is doing well in nollywood and would be IDEAL. Thandie just sucks up every role out there smh.

  • Uchy | January 27, 2012 9:35 AMReply

    Guess some Nigerian Actors and Actresses should be incorporated....Stephenie, Genevieve, Emeka Ike those ones refined with Igbo background. Waiting.....

  • Samuel Ethelbert | January 27, 2012 5:49 AMReply

    Good to see this exciting book interpreted in the screen its great.

  • JF | January 27, 2012 12:15 AMReply

    Really, I think we should be looking at the bigger picture - top hollywood actors taking up roles in a movie adaption of a great nigerian novel. I think that is awesome! and like Mike Ogah mentioned, will leave a lasting impression. I cant wait to see it!

  • Ifunanya | January 27, 2012 12:12 AMReply

    This a good change, no offence to Nollywood actors, I respect and totally support the lead cast choice on this! On the international scene they are actors that would pull a cinema crowd and here in Nigeria the viewing would most definitely hit the roof, and you expect (for people like myself allergic to the Nollywood poor dialogue and scene to scene sequence) the elation that comes from seeing a good movie! Haven't read the book but I'm sure to now, I really look forward to seeing it, hope more Nigerian actors of substance (likes of Joke silver) get parts in this too, it would be a must watch!

  • Alabi | January 26, 2012 11:22 PMReply

    I want a movie of world class. The actors and actress must not be of an particular race or ethnic group for the movie to be good. If any person is a professional and can fit into that story 'Half of a Yellow Sun' showing what happen during the civil war in Nigeria let the person take up the role.

  • mike ogah | January 26, 2012 7:20 PMReply

    can't wait mehn! Ejiofor was also ranked as one of hollywoods uprising A list stars as of last year. his presence in d movie wud definitely leave a lasting impression. then there's Cooper, i honestly cant wait to see d movie. good to know nigerian authors can also have their books shot in HD.

  • Kakes | January 26, 2012 6:08 PMReply

    I've read a few of the comments and I think that they are rather harsh about Thandie. She is a really good actress and a recognisable face which will no doubt attract cinema goers. I do feel however that a Nigerian actress should have been put forward for this role. I may be wrong however so I'm going to wait until the film is released before I make my final judgement.

  • BG | January 26, 2012 5:38 PMReply

    This cast will change a truly african story into one that caters to westerners. Olanna is plumb, she is distinctly african-looking, she is a true nigerian beauty with the figure to match. Even Kerry Washington is better suited for this role than Thandie Newton.

  • JF | January 27, 2012 12:01 AM

    Funny enough Thandie's face looks ibo-ish to me. I think she'll pass. Also, I read the book a while ago and the image of Olanna that I had was that of a slim lady.

  • Adanma | January 26, 2012 3:30 PMReply

    For those of you who may not know, Thandie is of Igbo heritage. So she may fit in as she acts the role of Olanna

  • Adaora | February 1, 2012 10:49 AM

    You are mistaken, Thandie is NOT of Igbo heritage, her African mother is from Zimbabwe and is of Shona ancestry.

  • Alabi | January 26, 2012 11:25 PM

    My question must Thandie be an Igbo to act Olanna. Or do we need a good actress that can act the role.

  • Ashley Akunna | January 26, 2012 3:35 PM

    She is from Zimbabwe. What Igbo woman looks like her? This is an insult to Igboland.

  • Toks Ogun | January 26, 2012 3:09 PMReply

    I've heard a few comments about Thandie not fitting the role but at the same time her past work brings additional credibility to the movie, which counts a lot when you're looking for financing.

  • ExcuseMoi | January 26, 2012 12:10 PMReply

    What role will Thandie be playing?? She doesn't fit into ANY of the character descriptions, which is crap. They should get an actual Nigerian woman to play Olanna and her sister. I wonder how the producers are going to TWIST this story and make Nigeria not be the central component. Last King of Scotland should not have been about a white man being a victim of the government. Won't be surprised if the whole movie comes out to be about Cooper playing Richard as the central character. Typical.

  • Ahaoma Kanu | January 26, 2012 10:06 AMReply

    This is so nice and would really go a long way to affecting the appreciation of literature in Nigeria

  • Ugo | January 26, 2012 1:45 AMReply

    This is such totally awesome news! A very gifted author, a brilliant novel, and very talented actor...I'm delirious and dribbling with excitement! I truly can't wait to see this. In fact, I'm going to read the novel again! This is just awesome!

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