As two of the most sought after performers currently in film, a collaboration between Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years A Slave) and the much-nominated David Oyelowo (Selma) is a very exciting prospect indeed. Add into that mix The Reluctant Fundamentalist director Mira Nair, and it could be argued that Disney is onto something big with planned literary adaptation, Queen Of Katwe.
The film is based on an article by Tim Crothers, published in ESPN The Magazine in 2011, and also on the book that followed the article – The Queen Of Katwe: A Story Of Life, Chess And One Extraordinary Girl’s Dream Of Becoming A Grandmaster. The “extraordinary girl” of the title is Phiona Mutesi, who went from a Ugandan slum to the World Chess Olympiad, under the tutelage of Robert Katende – her coach and mentor.
Phiona, who was forced to drop out of school around the age of nine due to a lack of finances, came to play chess through an initiative called the Sports Outreach Institute. Along with fellow player Ivy Amoko, Phiona became one of the first titled female chess players in the history of Uganda, and the youngest person to ever win the African Chess Championship. David Oyelowo is reportedly in talks to play Katende, while Nyong’o is considering the role of Harriet Mutesi – Phiona’s mother. It is not yet known which young actresses are being considered for the role of Phiona.
Queen Of Katwe will be produced in association with ESPN Films and is being developed under the Disney banner. The script comes from William Wheeler, who previously wrote The Reluctant Fundamentalist for director Mira Nair. The chess-based adaptation will be his fourth feature film screenplay. With principal photography planned for a spring start in Uganda and South Africa, we should hear confirmation soon as to whether these two acting heavy-weights will indeed be taking these roles.