Dakota Fanning clarifies refugee role amid ‘whitewashing’ backlash

Dakota Fanning has responded to allegations of whitewashing regarding her role as an Ethiopian refugee in drama Sweetness in the Belly.The movie is an adaptation of Camilla Gibb’s 2005 novel of the same name, and the 25-year-old actress stars as a refu…

Dakota Fanning has responded to allegations of whitewashing regarding her role as an Ethiopian refugee in drama Sweetness in the Belly.

The movie is an adaptation of Camilla Gibb’s 2005 novel of the same name, and the 25-year-old actress stars as a refugee abandoned in Africa as a child by her parents and raised in Ethiopia as a Muslim.

The first clip of the film was released by Deadline on Wednesday and quickly went viral, with her casting sparking backlash.

Sharing the post, which read “First Clip Of Dakota Fanning As A White Ethiopian Muslim In Refugee Drama-Romance”, one person wrote: “I’m sorry Dakota Fanning as WHOMST?”

And while many social media users then insisted the role should have gone to a woman of colour or someone with experience of being a refugee, Dakota took to her Instagram Stories to clarify her casting.

“Just to clarify. In the new film I’m part of, Sweetness in the Belly, I do not play an Ethiopian woman,” she wrote. “I play a British woman abandoned by her parents at seven years old in Africa and raised Muslim.

“My character, Lilly, journeys to Ethiopia and is caught up in the breakout of civil war. She is subsequently sent ‘home’ to England, a place she is from but has never known.”

The Once Upon a Time in Hollywood star went on to share that the film, which was partly made in Ethiopia, “is directed by an Ethiopian man (Zeresenay Berhane Mehari)” and “features many Ethiopian women.” She added: “(It) was a great privilege to be part of telling this story.”

Sweetness in the Belly, which also stars Wunmi Mosaku and Aquaman actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival later this month.

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Jason Momoa to star in new Netflix revenge thriller

Jason Momoa is set to star in a new revenge thriller for streaming giant Netflix.In Sweet Girl, the Aquaman actor will play a husband devastated by his wife’s death who vows to bring those responsible for her demise to justice, while protecting the onl…

Jason Momoa is set to star in a new revenge thriller for streaming giant Netflix.

In Sweet Girl, the Aquaman actor will play a husband devastated by his wife’s death who vows to bring those responsible for her demise to justice, while protecting the only surviving member of his family, his daughter.

Brian Andrew Mendoza will make his directorial debut on the feature, with the producer having previously worked with Momoa on action drama Braven and Netflix’s historical drama series Frontier. Brad Peyton and Jeff Fierson are to produce, while Martin Kistler will serve as executive producer.

“I’m excited to partner with Netflix once again,” the 39-year-old said in a statement. “I’m putting a dream team together from Brad and Jeff to my best friend, Brian, who has been my partner for over 10 years. It’s a dream come true to collaborate with him and deliver his vision.”

Gregg Hurwitz and Philip Eisner wrote the screenplay, with additions and revisions by Will Staples.

And Fierson commented that the project was the “perfect vehicle” for Mendoza.

“Brad and I are ecstatic about bringing another project to Netflix, who have truly made us feel like we have a home to make groundbreaking original features and series,” he praised. “Additionally, Jason and Brian are like family, so to re-team with them on a movie after working for three seasons of Frontier, is a dream come true. When we first read this script, we knew there was only one actor who could bring the gravitas and depth to the role of Cooper, and that’s Jason. And this is the perfect vehicle for Brian to make his directorial debut.”

Momoa, who is perhaps most famous for his role as Khal Drogo on Game of Thrones, is also set to appear in the upcoming Apple series See and recently wrapped production on the highly-anticipated reboot of Dune.

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Zachary Levi hopes Shazam will get to join the Justice League

Zachary Levi doesn’t want to be “greedy” but hopes Shazam will get a crack at joining the Justice League.The Chuck actor was unveiled as the newest member of the DC Comics universe in October 2017 when studio bosses announced that he would take on the …

Zachary Levi doesn’t want to be “greedy” but hopes Shazam will get a crack at joining the Justice League.

The Chuck actor was unveiled as the newest member of the DC Comics universe in October 2017 when studio bosses announced that he would take on the adult role in the movie Shazam!

Directed by David F. Sandberg, the plot centres on a troubled 14-year-old orphan named Billy Batson (Asher Angel), who can transform into the superhero, as played by Levi, simply by uttering the word “Shazam!”

Now, in a video interview for Digital Spy, Levi expressed how much he would like to see his character make a crossover into one of DC’s Justice League movies.

“I don’t want to get too greedy,” the 38-year-old, who is garnering plenty of positive buzz for his DC debut, commented. “First and foremost, I would love that we get to keep building this world, the Shazam! side of the DC universe.

“If beyond that, my bosses say, ‘Hey, what about going and popping into that person’s movie or they pop into your movie?’ or, God willing, they make another Justice League and Shazam gets to be in the Justice League, I want all of that.”

Other DC movies include box office smashes like 2017’s Justice League flick, as well as features like Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Suicide Squad, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

The newcomer also admitted he got some tips on navigating the superhero world, but not from his compatriots at DC.

“I’ve had some buddies who have also done this in the Marvel world as well,” he shared. “Through my observation of what they’ve all done, I’ve tried to assimilate, as best I can, the things that it looks like have worked for them, but I was just kind of trying to do my own thing.

“It is very different too. It’d be very difficult to be getting tips from Batman because it’s a much darker, different kind of thing.”

Also starring Mark Strong, Djimon Hounsou, and Grace Fulton, Shazam! begins to hit cinemas from 3 April (19).

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Gabrielle Union calls out lack of hairstylists able to style black actors’ hair

Gabrielle Union has called out hairstylists working in Hollywood who have no idea how to style black hair.Following on from model Olivia Anakwe speaking out against “texture discrimination” in an Instagram post, after a fashion brand failed to hire a b…

Gabrielle Union has called out hairstylists working in Hollywood who have no idea how to style black hair.

Following on from model Olivia Anakwe speaking out against “texture discrimination” in an Instagram post, after a fashion brand failed to hire a backstage hairstylist with knowledge of styling textured hair despite booking her to wear cornrows during a Paris Fashion Week show, a chorus of African-American actors, including Gabrielle, Insecure actress and writer Natasha Rothwell and Community star Yvette Nicole Brown, also shared their frustrations.

“The pressure to “just be happy they picked you & you got a job, don’t ask for the SAME things every other actor/model gets on GP…” Listen, if u stay quiet, u WILL have bald spots, hair damage, look NUTS (tho they will tell u its cuuuuuuuuute),” the Bring It On star tweeted.

She also drew attention to the difficulties that black hair stylists face with getting into the industry.

“What alot of non-industry folks don’t realize is that u can’t just use ur normal hairstylists/barbers/makeup artists on a union job (most jobs are union) Those artists HAVE to be IN THE UNION & getting them in has NEVER been easy or smooth. Ever. Like never,” she shared.

“PSA: If you cast a POC— And thank you for doing so!—you also have to hire someone who knows how to do ethnic hair,” tweeted Love, Simon actress Natasha. “Not someone who’s “comfortable with it” but someone who actually knows how to style ethnic hair types. Congratulations on advancing to the next level of inclusion!”

And actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen, who played Black Manta in Aquaman, sympathised with Olivia after she shared she was “ignored” and “forgotten” by stylists backstage, explaining the issue affects many black actors in Hollywood as well.

“100% of Black Actor/Actress I’ve spoken to on this topic face the same thing in film and television,” he said. “Hair Stylists in our industry should have proper training, AND be able to show proof. Too often they begin to ‘figure it out’ the second we sit in the chair.”

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Aquaman star tapped for Candyman revamp

Aquaman actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II has landed another villainous role as the star of Jordan Peele’s horror revamp Candyman. The Get Out director co-wrote the screenplay with Win Rosenfeld for a new take on the Clive Barker short story The Forbidden, …

Aquaman actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II has landed another villainous role as the star of Jordan Peele’s horror revamp Candyman.

The Get Out director co-wrote the screenplay with Win Rosenfeld for a new take on the Clive Barker short story The Forbidden, which inspired the 1992 big screen adaptation, starring Tony Todd as the knife-wielding killer of urban legend.

Now Yahya, who portrayed Aquaman’s nemesis Black Manta in the DC Comics blockbuster, is in talks to take on the classic character, according to Variety.

Peele and Rosenfeld will produce the project, while Little Woods writer/director Nia DaCosta has signed on to take charge of the shoot.

The new Candyman has been described by MGM Pictures bosses as a “spiritual sequel” to the original movie, instead of a remake, and will take fans back to the Chicago, Illinois neighbourhood terrorised in the first film.

In a statement announcing the news of the franchise reboot in November (18), Peele said, “The original was a landmark film for black representation in the horror genre. Alongside Night of the Living Dead, Candyman was a major inspiration for me as a filmmaker – and to have a bold new talent like Nia at the helm of this project is truly exciting.

“We are honoured to bring the next chapter in the Candyman canon to life and eager to provide new audiences with an entry point to Clive Barker’s legend.”

Production on Candyman is set to begin in the spring (19), ahead of a June, 2020 release.

It won’t be Abdul-Mateen II’s first time working with Peele – he will also feature in the actor-turned-filmmaker’s next thriller, Us.

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Jason Momoa joins Dune remake

Jason Momoa is in talks to join the star-studded cast of the Dune remake. The Aquaman actor is reportedly in negotiations to play swordmaster Duncan Idaho in Denis Villeneuve’s reboot of David Lynch’s 1984 cult sci-fi epic. If he cuts a deal, Momoa …

Jason Momoa is in talks to join the star-studded cast of the Dune remake.

The Aquaman actor is reportedly in negotiations to play swordmaster Duncan Idaho in Denis Villeneuve’s reboot of David Lynch’s 1984 cult sci-fi epic.

If he cuts a deal, Momoa will join an impressive cast list which currently includes Timothee Chalamet, Stellan Skarsgard, Javier Bardem, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Dave Bautista and Josh Brolin.

Set in the distant future, Dune tells the story of Chalamet’s character Paul Atreides whose family assumes control of the desert planet Arrakis which is the only source of a drug known as “the spice”, a highly valuable commodity. This sparks a fight for control among competing noble families, and after Atreides is betrayed, he leads a rebellion to restore his family’s reign over the planet.

Momoa’s character Duncan belongs to the house of Atreides and serves as the right-hand man to Paul’s father Duke Leto Atreides, played by Oscar Isaac.

Villeneuve, who helmed films such as Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, is directing and producing from a script he co-wrote with A Star is Born’s current Oscar nominee Eric Roth and Prometheus’ Jon Spaihts. Brian Herbert, the son of Dune author Frank Herbert, will serve also a producer with his daughter Kim, while Kevin J. Anderson, who co-wrote the Dune prequel book series with Brian, will act as creative consultant.

The 1984 movie, based on Herbert’s 1965 novel, starred Kyle MacLachlan and was a critical and commercial failure that went on to become a cult hit and spawn TV shows and video games.

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Aquaman 2 officially in the works

Warner Bros. has started work on the Aquaman sequel – hiring David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick to write the script.The film, based on the DC comics character and starring Jason Momoa as the title character, with Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson,…

Warner Bros. has started work on the Aquaman sequel – hiring David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick to write the script.

The film, based on the DC comics character and starring Jason Momoa as the title character, with Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, and Nicole Kidman in supporting roles, was directed by James Wan, and became a huge hit for the movie studio.

It took $68.7 million (£60.2 million) in its opening weekend in North America, and sailed past $1 billion (£778 million) worldwide. And according to editors at The Hollywood Reporter Johnson-McGoldrick, who co-wrote the Aquaman script with Will Beall, has been given the go ahead to start work on the sequel.

Johnson-McGoldrick, who worked with director Wan on The Conjuring 2, first began working on the script for the original movie three years ago after reading the Aquaman comic books during filming for the horror.

In an interview with website Moviehole in December he explained writing the DC Comics franchise was a lot of fun.

“It was a little like getting to go play and I felt like the challenges that were faced were harder for Zach Snyder for Justice League — because he was the one who had to figure out who Aquaman was, he told the website. “Zach cast Jason (Momoa) which completely shattered people’s perceptions and we were able to steer Jason back to the classic Aquaman. I don’t think you could’ve shown him in a suit right out of the gate. He had to show Aquaman was cool.”

At present it’s unclear whether Wan will return to direct the sequel, but he is said to be in talks to return as producer.

The news of Johnson-McGoldrick’s hiring comes after Warner Bros. announced that it is developing a spinoff around Aquaman villain The Trench. Wan and Safran are reportedly set to produce the flick, which is being developed as a lower budget version of Aquaman. However, none of the main cast is set to be involved.

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Glass tops North American box office for a second week as Matthew McConaughey’s new film flops

Thriller Glass has scored a second week at the top of the U.S box office with an estimated weekend haul of $18.5 million (£14 million). M. Night Shyamalan’s new movie, which brings back his characters from Unbreakable and Split for a final movie, has…

Thriller Glass has scored a second week at the top of the U.S box office with an estimated weekend haul of $18.5 million (£14 million).

M. Night Shyamalan’s new movie, which brings back his characters from Unbreakable and Split for a final movie, has not snagged over $73 million (£55.3 million) for a 10-day total.

The Upside, Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart’s remake of French film The Intouchables, hangs onto the number two spot, while blockbuster Aquaman lands at three, becoming the biggest-grossing Warner Bros. superhero movie globally in the process.

James Wan’s film, starring Jason Momoa, has now passed The Dark Knight Rises as the studio’s top-grossing film featuring a DC Comics superhero. Aquaman has sailed past $1.3 billion worldwide, making Wan, who is already on board for a sequel, the only filmmaker who has delivered a billion dollar blockbuster for two different studios – his Furious 7 raced past $1.5 billion for Universal in 2016.

20th Century Fox’s new family film The Kid Who Would Be King and Spider-Man:Into the Spider Verse complete the top five, while Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway’s new release, Serenity, is notable for all the wrong reasons, becoming the worst debut for both its stars.

The film, which has split critics, limped in to the new top 10 at eight with just $4.4 million (£3.3 million).

Directed by Steven Knight, the film was made for a budget of $59 million (£44.7 million).

Meanwhile, Green Book is the leading Oscar nominated film at this week’s box office – the first since the Academy Awards nominations were announced on Tuesday (22Jan19).

Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen’s drama is the only nominated picture in the top 10, scoring a $5.3 million (£4 million) haul in its 11th week on release.

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Jason Momoa and James Wan celebrate as Aquaman reaches $1 billion milestone

Jason Momoa and James Wan had reason to celebrate over the weekend – their movie Aquaman made $1 billion (£770,000) at the worldwide box office.The film is the first DC Comics offering to reach the impressive milestone since The Dark Knight in 2008, a…

Jason Momoa and James Wan had reason to celebrate over the weekend – their movie Aquaman made $1 billion (£770,000) at the worldwide box office.

The film is the first DC Comics offering to reach the impressive milestone since The Dark Knight in 2008, and Jason, who stars as the titular superhero, was quick to take to Instagram to thank fans for their support.

As well as thanking director James, Jason also paid his respects to Zack Snyder, who first cast the actor as Aquaman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016.

“BILLION DOLLAR UNDERDOG. from baywatch to making what once was the most disrespected superhero into a billion dollar movie. no one gets to the top without the people that love them,” Jason wrote. “My success is from my fans. All my aloha to everyone that had a hand in making this movie. Mahalo Zack for choosing me and mahalo James for creating this beautiful world. #grateful #lovemyfans #billiondollarunderdog #borntoclimb #outofholes #aquaman2 #cheeeehuuuuuu #hhrajahh. Aloha j.”

James also celebrated the milestone on his Twitter page, writing: “A few things to say… Firstly, this movie wouldn’t be what it is without the astonishing achievement of everyone involved, from the head of departments to every single crew member, who demanded upmost excellence in helping design and create this cinematic experience.”

He then thanked Jason, tweeting: “Secondly, I’ll forever be indebted to Jason for turning Aquaman into one of the coolest, cinematic superheroes ever, and becoming the gold standard for this character for generations to come.”

Continuing to thank fellow cast members including Patrick Wilson and Amber Heard, James concluded: “THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has supported this underdog. For making this non-mainstream character (and yes — with leading POC individuals in front and behind the camera!) connect on such a huge global scale. In the words of Aquaman himself, ‘MAHALO’.”

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The Upside upsets Aquaman with surprise box office win

Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart’s The Upside has ended Aquaman’s reign over the North American box office. Based on a true story, the Hollywood remake of 2011 French-language film The Intouchables stars Cranston as a quadriplegic aristocrat who forms an…

Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart’s The Upside has ended Aquaman’s reign over the North American box office.

Based on a true story, the Hollywood remake of 2011 French-language film The Intouchables stars Cranston as a quadriplegic aristocrat who forms an unlikely friendship with his ex-con caregiver, played by Hart.

The Upside has received a largely negative response from critics, giving it just a 39 per cent approval rating on review site RottenTomatoes.com, but film fans have been more receptive to the uplifting story, and have flocked to theatres, helping to take the movie to number one with an estimated $19.6 million (£15.2 million) in its opening weekend – almost double experts’ initial estimates.

The news also comes on the heels of Kevin’s Oscars hosting controversy, stepping down as MC for the 2019 ceremony after a series of derogatory Twitter comments aimed at the gay and lesbian community, dating back to 2008, resurfaced online.

The Upside replaces Aquaman as the king of the North American box office, after dominating for three consecutive weeks.

The DC Comics blockbuster, starring Jason Momoa as the titular superhero, slips into second place with a solid $17.3 million (£13.5 million), but the figure has helped to boost the movie’s global total to crack the $1 billion mark, making it Warner Bros.’ first to surpass the milestone since 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises.

Meanwhile, A Dog’s Way Home opens in third place with $11.3 million (£8.8 million), ahead of the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse at four, and Escape Room rounding out the new top five.

Failing to enter the top 10 this week (ends13Jan19) was Keanu Reeve’s new sci-fi film Replicas, which flopped with fans and critics alike, earning just $2.2 million (£1.7 million) on wide release. The debut is the worst of the actor’s career.

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