Be mindful what you meme for—sometimes, it can turn into a buddy film, led and created by Black women. That’s exactly what happened when a meme of Barbadian singer and actress Rihanna ("Bates Motel") and Mexican-born Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o ("Queen of Katwe") led to them starring in a still-untitled Netflix movie directed by Ava DuVernay ("Selma") and written by Issa Rae ("Insecure").
Entertainment Weekly reported yesterday (May 22) that Netflix acquired the project "after a dramatic negotiation session at the Cannes Film Festival." The movie originated with a series of Twitter and Tumblr posts last month, featuring Rihanna and Nyong’o sitting side-by-side at a 2014 Paris Fashion Week show:
Rihanna looks like she scams rich white men and lupita is the computer smart best friend that helps plan the scans https://t.co/PhWs1xd3nj
— WHOOPHERASSKOURTNI (@1800SADGAL) April 18, 2017
A picture for the history books pic.twitter.com/OgxAGZMn4Z
— ash (@blaquepink) April 18, 2017
The concept’s viral success compelled a response from Nyong’o, who reached out to Rihanna and got the musician’s approval:
I’m down if you are @rihanna https://t.co/vwHBWeCbFZ
— Lupita Nyong’o (@Lupita_Nyongo) April 21, 2017
I’m in Pit’z https://t.co/Kz0o3lBEmL
— Rihanna (@rihanna) April 23, 2017
Black Twitter amplified the concept, with writer Mikelle Street and Twitter user @dvrrxll eventually compelling DuVernay and Rae to tweet their support via gifs:
@MikelleStreet @rihanna Lights set. Camera’s up. Ready to call action for these #queens. pic.twitter.com/NVgqpFeTnu
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) April 24, 2017
@dvrrxll @rihanna pic.twitter.com/XG2WMribGJ
— Issa Rae (@IssaRae) April 23, 2017
Neither Netflix nor the affiliated artists commented on what happened behind-the-scenes to make the project a reality, but Entertainment Weekly reported that the streaming company beat out multiple offers with "a very aggressive bid." Rae’s representatives confirmed the project to Vanity Fair and added that the social media users who created the concept will be credited and included.
Anonymous sources told Entertainment Weekly that production will begin in 2018, after DuVernay finishes her work on "A Wrinkle in Time." The director celebrated the news via tweet:
We deserve nice things. https://t.co/VlbKhLNDIv
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) May 22, 2017
"Insecure’s" second season premieres July 23 on HBO. Rihanna next acting project, sci-fi film "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets," hits theaters on July 21. Nyong’o boasts three projects in production: "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," "Star Wars: Forces of Destiny" and Marvel’s "Black Panther."