EXCLUSIVE: Fresh from his turn in Lee Daniels’ The Butler, David Oyelowo has been set to star in and produce A United Kingdom, a love story based on the true tale of Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams. The film is backed by UK-based Pathe, which is coming off Philomena and Mandela. They are out to directors and will film next year in London and Botswana. Oyelowo will play Seretse, heir to the African throne of Botswana, who created a sensation in 1948 by engaging in a whirlwind romance in London with Williams, a white English office worker he married. The interracial union was opposed by both their families, as well as the British government, the Tribal elders of Botswana and the apartheid government of South Africa. The couple would not be denied, overcoming huge obstacles to be together, including exile and the abdication of the throne. Their son, Ian Khama, is currently the freely elected president of Botswana.
Oyelowo will produce with Rick McCallum, Brunson Green, Justin Moore Lewy and Charlie Mason. They are out to directors on a script written by Guy Hibbert, whose credits include Omagh and Five Minutes Of Heaven. Hibbert is exec producing with Cameron McCraken.
The film’s being done with cooperation from the Khama family, which issued a statement from Botswana: “We are pleased that the story of Sir Seretse Khama and Lady Khama is being brought to life in the film A United Kingdom by Pathe. Our family has been regularly involved in development of this film so far, having collaborated closely with the screenwriter Guy Hibbert in what we believe is a wonderful script. We are equally pleased that David Oyelowo will lead the cast as Seretse.”
Filming is scheduled to begin in London and Botswana in 2014. Oyelowo is shooting Captive, which he also produced, starring opposite Kate Mara. He completed the Christopher Nolan-directed Interstellar, starred opposite Zoe Saldana in Nina Simone, and the indie Nightingale, in which he is the sole speaking actor on screen for the duration of the film. Some of us still remember him for his empathetic agent Danny Hunter in MI-5. Oyelowo is repped by WME, Inphenate and Hamilton-Hodell. Hibbert is repped by WME and Independent Talent Group in the UK.