Lupita Nyong’o comes to Joburg

2015-04-26 15:00

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Early next month, Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o is heading to Johannesburg, where parts of a new Disney blockbuster will be filmed.

The visit by the beautiful Kenyan actress is shrouded in secrecy, as local producers have signed a confidentiality agreement.

However, a well-placed source close to the production told City Press Nyong’o was coming to Joburg in “early May” to star in the film Queen of Katwe directed by Indian film maker Mira Nair.

Although it is not known exactly where the 32-year-old actress will be staying, the five-star Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff is a favourite among production bosses.

At the moment, Nyong’o is filming for Queen of Katwe in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.

On March 29, Nyong’o posted a picture of herself and Nair on her official Facebook page and wrote: “Excited to be back in East Africa to work with Mira Nair on Queen Of Katwe!”

The production source said a number of local actors would get the opportunity to work alongside Nyong’o, as the film would feature “lots of young talent from South Africa and Uganda”.

Former Generations actress Maggie Benedict is believed to be among those cast. But Benedict, who plays Violet on e.tv’s telenovella Ashes to Ashes, refused to comment.

“I’m not interested to comment. Have a great day,” she said, before hanging up.

Her casting agency was similarly coy. A representative who declined to identify herself, said: “It’s nothing confirmed yet.”

When the production of Queen of Katwe moves to Johannesburg, local production company Moonlighting will work alongside Disney.

Speaking to City Press yesterday, the founder of Moonlighting, Genevieve Hofmeyr, said she was unable to divulge any details of the project due to a confidentiality agreement with the US corporation. Moonlighting is among South Africa’s foremost production companies, having worked on the 2006 thriller Blood Diamond and season four of US drama series Homeland.

Ugandan newspaper The Kampala Sun reported Queen of Katwe had a R182?million budget.

Based on a true story, the film tells the tale of Phiona Mutesi, who comes from an informal settlement in Uganda and becomes an international chess champion. Phiona’s life changes when she meets chess coach Robert Katende at the tender age of nine.

Katende, a war refugee turned missionary, initially encourages the young girl to play chess in exchange for cups of free porridge.

Nyong’o plays the role of Harriet Mutesi, Phiona’s mother, whose husband has died of an Aids-related illness.

The film project was officially launched in Kampala on March 28. At the bash, Nyong’o posed for pictures next to Katende, who will be portrayed by British actor David Oyelowo.

They were joined by Nair, who has directed several acclaimed films, including Monsoon Wedding and Mississippi Masala. She is also the founder of the Maisha Foundation, a training initiative for emerging east African film makers.

Nyong’o, who lives in Brooklyn, New York, is fluent in Spanish, Luo, English and Swahili. She made headlines in February this year when the pearl-studded Calvin Klein dress she wore to the Oscars was stolen from her room at The London hotel in West Hollywood. Bizarrely, the thief returned it to the hotel days later after discovering the pearls were not real.

Nyong’o was born in Mexico and raised in Kenya. She rose to fame after playing Patsey in Steve McQueen’s historical drama 12 Years a Slave, which earned her an Oscar in 2014. Since then she has clinched numerous industry accolades and fashion endorsement deals, including becoming an ambassador for French beauty house Lancôme.

Last year, she was named the most beautiful person in the world by People magazine.

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