Woman King Director Teases Braveheart-Size Battle

The Woman King director Gina Prince-Bythewood teases a Braveheart-sized battle in her upcoming historical epic. Originally based on a story developed by A History of Violence star Maria Bello, the film is inspired by the true tale of the Dahomey Amazon warriors, also known as Agojie or Mino, an all-women regiment of the West African Kingdom of Dahomey. The legend of their ferocity inspired the creation of the all-female Dora Milaje in the Black Panther Marvel Comics series. The Woman King was written by the director along with Dana Stevens.

Viola Davis stars as General Nanisca, the strong, capable leader of the Agojie under the rule of King Ghezo, played by Attack the Block star John Boyega. The Woman King centers on Nanisca, who leads her army against rival kingdoms as well as an invasion by European forces. Set in 1823, at the beginning of King Ghezo's reign, the Agojie see their strength rise under their new ruler as they are tasked with taking on the Oyo Empire. Starring alongside Davis is Captain Marvel star Lashana Lynch as Lieutenant Izogie, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness star Sheila Atim as Lieutenant Amenza, and The Underground Railroad lead Thuso Mbedu as Nawi, a young recruit.


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While speaking to Empire, Prince-Bythewood recalls a Braveheart-sized battle sequence filmed for The Woman King. According to the director, she was inspired by the epic war scenes of Ridley Scott's ancient Roman action-drama, Gladiator, as well as the 1995 Mel Gibson-directed historical epic Braveheart, about Sir William Wallace's War of Independence against King Edward I of England. Prince-Bythewood claims that The Woman King features a battle sequence with the Oyo Empire that ran for a full ten pages of the script and required thousands of extras to faithfully bring to the big screen. Read how the director describes the scene below:

It felt like our Braveheart. Braveheart is one of my favorite movies. But we don’t get to see ourselves like that. [...]

I just thought about all those great battles in Braveheart or Gladiator. And now we get to do ours. On paper, it’s a ten-page sequence. We had thousands of extras closing with each other in an epic David versus Goliath battle that’s one of my favorite sequences in the film.

Braveheart featured thousands of extras in a choreographed dance of swords, armor, and blood to fully realize the scale of war from the late-13th century, and a hand-to-hand combat war sequence like Prince-Bythewood describes would certainly place The Woman King on that level. Both Braveheart and Gladiator utilized real people on real sets to simulate actual battles from the past, but with a typical Hollywood flair. With Prince-Bythewood's tease, The Woman King is shaping up to be a sword-and-sandal epic the likes of which Hollywood has not seen in years.

Rarely do modern films employ hundreds, let alone thousands, of extras for film sequences. Modern filmmaking techniques allow directors to use visual effects to simulate thousands of warriors on the battlefield with only a fraction of the actors actual appearing on film. Scenes featuring crowds of soldiers in films such as The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies actually had extras that were duplicated, and TV shows like Ted Lasso can now fill an entire stadium in post-production. The Warrior King's dedication to realism and authenticity goes to show that the film will be one to behold when it premieres in theaters next month.