‘Game of Thrones’ creators to make new ‘Star Wars’ films

Game of Thrones, one of the most popular and talked-about cable shows in history, begins its final, six-episode season in 2019. (Courtesy HBO)
Updated 07 February 2018
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‘Game of Thrones’ creators to make new ‘Star Wars’ films

LOS ANGELES: Lucasfilm announced plans Tuesday for a new series of “Star Wars” films made by the team behind “Game of Thrones,” as it seeks to build on the lucrative sci-fi franchise.
David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the creators of the smash-hit, Emmy Award-winning television series, will write and produce new films that are separate from the main Skywalker saga and the trilogy being developed by Rian Johnson, writer-director of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”
“David and Dan are some of the best storytellers working today,” Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm, said in a statement.
“Their command of complex characters, depth of story and richness of mythology will break new ground and boldly push ‘Star Wars’ in ways I find incredibly exciting.”
Benioff and Weiss released a joint statement saying they had been dreaming of traveling to “a galaxy far, far away” since seeing the original movie in 1977.
“We are honored by the opportunity, a little terrified by the responsibility, and so excited to get started as soon as the final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ is complete,” they said.
Lucasfilm did not say how many movies would comprise the new series or announce release dates.
Disney boss Bob Iger said when Johnson’s trilogy was announced in November the “Star Wars” franchise had been “exceeding expectations” since the entertainment giant acquired Lucasfilm in 2012.
The two films from the main series under Disney’s charge — “The Force Awakens” (2015) and “The Last Jedi” (2017) — are among the top ten highest grossing movies of all time, with $2 billion and $1.3 billion respectively.
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (2016), the first of three scheduled spin-off movies, also made more than $1 billion, raising hopes for the success of the next, “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” which opens in May.
Californian filmmaker George Lucas was 33 when he prepared to release his third feature — a far-fetched, slightly corny intergalactic saga of good and evil starring a sulky farm boy with daddy issues.
“Star Wars” has since grown into the most lucrative and influential movie franchise of all time, ingrained in a geek culture that gave rise to Silicon Valley and disruptive technologies.
The announcement sparked excitement — and some grumbling — among fans of “Game of Thrones,” one of the most popular and talked-about cable shows in history, which begins its final, six-episode season in 2019.
“I can’t wait for a graphic C-3PO/R2-D2 sex scene in a galaxy far, far away,” joked one Twitter user, a reference to the frequent racy love scenes and nudity for which “Thrones” has become infamous.
But not everyone was thrilled by the announcement, which once again underscored the lack of female or ethnic minority directors in the “Star Wars” universe, a marked contrast to the diversity Lucasfilm has promoted in front of camera.
“Still no sign of ever seeing any part of a galaxy long time ago and far, far away as conceived of by a woman or person of color,” tweeted film executive Franklin Leonard, who founded The Black List, a yearly publication featuring Hollywood’s most popular unproduced screenplays.
The announcement came as the Walt Disney Company issued its first earnings report since announcing six weeks ago that it would buy much of rival studio Fox’s film and television assets in a $52 billion deal.
The California-based entertainment giant reported first-quarter earnings — up to December 30 — of $1.89 per share, a 22 percent on-year rise, and revenue of $15.4 billion, just shy of the $15.5 billion analysts had been predicting.
“We’re excited about what lies ahead, with a robust film slate, the launch of our ESPN direct-to-consumer business, new investments in our theme parks, and our pending acquisition of Twenty-First Century Fox,” said Iger.


Grappling with taboos, Iraqi women join wrestling squad

Updated 15 November 2018
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Grappling with taboos, Iraqi women join wrestling squad

DIWANIYA, Iraq: The toughest fight that Iraqi freestyle wrestler Alia Hussein ever faced was convincing her family that women should be allowed to grapple.
The 26-year-old student was a keen cyclist and basketball player but when she told her family last year that she wanted to try her hand at the physical world of wrestling she was met with abuse.
"I was humiliated and even beaten by my family, but I defied them all," Hussein told Reuters.
"I feel that I can express myself through this sport. I wanted to prove to society that wrestling is not confined to men only and that Iraqi women can be wrestlers and can win and fight."
On the blue mats of the Al-Rafideen Club in the conservative city of Diwaniya, some 180 km (110 miles) south of Baghdad, Hussein trains three times a week with 30 other female wrestlers, some still wearing headscarves. When a big competition comes up, they train every day.
In September, Hussein won a silver medal in the 75 kg (165 lb) freestyle category at a regional event in Lebanon and gold at a local tournament in Baghdad.
"I faced opposition from my family at the beginning, but after my participation in Baghdad and Beirut tournaments they started to encourage me, thank God," Hussein said.
This is the second attempt by the Iraqi Wrestling Federation (IWF) to grow women's wrestling, this time prompted by the threat of a ban by the sport's global body if they didn't.
The first ended when the club in Diwaniya was disbanded in 2012 after complaints from the local community that the sport was in defiance of local traditions and culture.
The IWF has managed to recruit 70 female wrestlers who train at 15 clubs across the country, a spokesman for the body said. Each is entitled to a payment of 100,000 Iraqi dinars ($84) a month, but the money has stopped for the last three months as the IWF invests in a new wrestling hall in Baghdad.
Despite the financial offer, recruitment is tough.
Nihaya Dhaher Hussein, a 50-year-old school teacher, is the driving force behind the burgeoning team in Diwaniya which started in 2016.
She drives the squad to practice, trains them and undertakes the dangerous task of convincing families to let their daughters, sisters or wives wrestle.
"A woman wrestling is alien to our conservative tribal society," she said. "The idea is hard to accept. It was so difficult to attract girls and convince their families.
"I was threatened myself by a brother of a player who verbally abused me and tried to hit me. It is so difficult to bring them to training and return them to their houses."