Continuing the trend of extending Academy membership to a global set of professionals, this year’s list includes five Nigerians from across fields.
By Mariam Abdullahi
Funke Akindele (of ‘Jenifa’ and ‘Omo Ghetto’ fame), alongside Hollywood greats like Anya Taylor-Joy, singer Billie Eilish, and Disney exec Dana Walden are among the 397 artists and executives invited to join the membership of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. If all of this year’s invitees accept membership, it will bring the total number of Academy members to 10,665, with 9,665 eligible to vote for the 95th Oscars set to take place on March 12, 2023.
Joining Akindele and co. on the prestigious list, are four other Nigerians, namely Newton Aduaka (an England-based, Nigerian-born filmmaker), Blessing Egbe (an actress and writer), Daniel K. Daniel (US-based actor), as well as another US-based invitee called Josiah Akinyele (famous in the industry as ‘The Hardest Working Agent in Showbiz’).
The 2022 class is 44% women, 37% belong to underrepresented ethnic/racial communities, and 50% are from 53 countries and territories outside the United States. There are 71 Oscar nominees, including 15 winners, among the invitees. Academy membership is limited to film artists working in the production of theatrically-released motion pictures.
The academy has 17 branches ranging from actors, writers, and two categories that involve members-at-large and associates to accommodate individuals who have no defined branches in motion picture production.
Marvel talked with John Wick director about possibly helming ‘Blade’ reboot
John Wick director Chad Stahelski revealed that he had talks with Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige about directing the upcoming Blade reboot. In an article on ComicBook.com, it was revealed that ‘Blade’ was the only project Stahelski was interested in directing for the superhero studio.
“Marvel was very influential in my career. I owe them a great deal. Kevin [Feige] is an awesome guy and I’ve worked for him many times on second unit. After John Wick 3, he was nice enough to carve out a big chunk of time and have [a] nice talk,” the director said. “And he actually asked me, ‘What could we ever do?’ I was like, ‘Look, I’m not going to lie to you. I don’t know if I fit that kind of studio mold, but Blade would be the one interesting thing I’d like to do.'”
Marvel Studios eventually hired Bassam Tariq to direct in September 2021, who Stahelski believes “is a very good director” and “will do a great job in the direction that I think they want to take the property.”
Marvel Studios began working on a Blade reboot in May 2013 after regaining the rights to the character from New Line Cinema. Mahershala Ali was cast in the title role in July 2019 and made his first appearance as the vampire hunter in an uncredited voice cameo in 2021’s ‘Eternals’.
During Marvel’s Hall H panel at 2022’s San Diego Comic-Con, Feige announced that Blade would release in theaters as part of Phase 5 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe film on Nov. 3, 2023.
Stahelski is still busy expanding the John Wick universe. He directed the upcoming fourth film in the franchise, ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’, which is scheduled to hit theaters on March 24, 2023. He is also expected to direct a fifth John Wick film in addition to producing spinoff film ‘Ballerina’ and prequel television series ‘The Continental’.
Black Panther 2: UFC champ Kamaru Usman cast in mystery role
UFC welterweight champion, Nigerian-born Kamaru Usman has been cast in a mystery role for the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ in an undisclosed role. Reported by MMA Fighting, UFC Hall of Famer Daniel Cormier revealed Usman’s involvement in the upcoming sequel during the UFC 277 weigh-in show.
While it is said that Usman has a guest role in the film, it is unknown who exactly he is playing as of writing. Usman was born in Auchi, Edo State in Nigeria to an Army major father, and a teacher mother, who moved their family to the United States when the champ was a youngster.
Usman’s role is not the only mystery casting for the film. ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ is set to be a heartfelt tribute to the late ‘Black Panther’ (2018) star Chadwick Boseman, who passed away in 2020 after portraying the hero T’Challa across four Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Released during Marvel Studios’ Hall H panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2022, the official trailer for Wakanda Forever shows that T’Challa is now dead in the MCU, and that someone else has put on the Vibranium suit as his heroic successor.
Who this successor is remains a mystery though. Many theories are circulating about who the next Black Panther will be, with speculated choices including Shuri (Letitia Wright), Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), M’Baku (Winston Duke) and a resurrected Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan).
In addition to an appearance by Usman and a new Black Panther, Wakanda Forever will debut two major players to the MCU. The first is Namor the Submariner, a king of an underwater kingdom and rival of Black Panther’s in Marvel Comics, who will be portrayed by actor Tenoch Huerta. The other is Riri Williams aka Ironheart, played by actor Dominique Thorne in the film.
Aside from Usman, Huerta and Thorne’s new characters, Wakanda Forever also sees the return of Shuri, Ramonda, M’Baku and CIA agent Everett Ross (Martin Freeman). Directed by Ryan Coogler, ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ will be in theatres Nov. 11, 2022.
Will Smith explains Oscars slap, offers second apology to Chris Rock and family
The Oscar winner posted a new video message — one of his first public statements since the Oscars — to his Instagram on Friday.
By Justina Terhember
Will Smith says “there is no part of me that thinks that was the right way to behave in that moment” when explaining his decision to slap Chris Rock during the March 2022 Oscars ceremony. In a new Instagram video (below), the King Richard star answers a series of questions about that night, offering up yet another apology to Rock while also discussing the impact it had on Rock’s family; whether he was responding to his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith’s eye roll when he took the stage; the effects his actions had on the night’s other nominees and winners; and more.
“I was fogged out by that point,” Smith says, explaining why it took so long to offer Rock an apology. “It’s all fuzzy. I’ve reached out to Chris, and the message that came back is that he’s not ready to talk. And when he is, he will reach out.”
Smith goes on to address Rock directly, saying he’s “here whenever you’re ready to talk,” before offering up an apology to Rock’s mother and brother Tony Rock.
“That was one of the things about that moment I just didn’t realize,” Smith reflects. “I wasn’t thinking about how many people got hurt in that moment. So, I want to apologize to Chris’ mother. I want to apologize to Chris’ family — specifically, Tony Rock. We had a great relationship. You know, Tony Rock was my man, and this is probably irreparable.”
Smith also answered a question about whether his reaction was in response to his wife’s eye roll following Rock’s joke about her baldness, which many noted may have been a sensitive topic due to her alopecia. “I made a choice on my own, from my own experiences, from my history with Chris. Jada had nothing to do [with it],” Smith said, before acknowledging the “heat” his wife and kids have taken.
Toward the end of the video, Smith acknowledges how his actions impacted his fellow nominees. “It really breaks my heart to have stolen and tarnished your moment,” Smith says, addressing Questlove, who took the Oscars stage right after the incident to accept the award for best feature documentary for his project Summer of Soul. “Sorry isn’t really sufficient.”
This is the third apology in some form that Smith has offered up since the Oscars 2022 incident, in which the best actor winner took to the Dolby Theatre stage and slapped comedian Rock after he made an unscripted G.I. Jane joke about Pinkett Smith’s baldness while presenting the award for best documentary feature.
Since then, Smith announced he was resigning from the Academy and has been banned from appearing at Academy events for 10 years. He is still, however, eligible for future Oscar nominations and wins, and will retain the Oscar that he won during the 2022 ceremony.
Several of Smith’s upcoming projects are seemingly in limbo. Fast and Loose, which centers on a crime boss who loses his memory, had previously lost its director ahead of the Oscars incident, but according to sources, was quietly put on the back burner by Netflix. Sony’s Bad Boys 4, also in active development during the Oscars season, was also paused.