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Thandie Newton explains why Star Wars dress celebrated black cast members

She designed the gown with the help of Dame Vivienne Westwood.


Thandie Newton (Ian West/PA)

Thandie Newton (Ian West/PA)

Thandie Newton (Ian West/PA)

Thandie Newton has said her specially created Star Wars dress celebrated those actors who paved the way for her to star in the franchise.

The British actress, who plays Val in Solo: A Star Wars Story, drew attention in Cannes when she arrived for the film’s premiere in a dress featuring the faces of black characters from the Star Wars family, including John Boyega’s Finn and Samuel L Jackson’s Mace Windu.

She designed the gown with the help of Dame Vivienne Westwood after learning she was the first woman of colour to have a lead Star Wars role.

Speaking at a screening of Solo: A Star Wars Story at the BFI in London, Newton, 45, described it as a “love note” to the franchise but also a nod to her predecessors.

She added she was “absolutely shocked” after learning she was the first woman of colour to play a lead role, adding: “Not only then was I very proud about how significant this was but I thought of the people who 40 years ago, 30 years ago, 20 years ago, had been people of colour who had stood proudly on the stage of Star Wars and I wanted to remember those people.”

In a rallying cry for diversity in front of and behind the scenes in film, Newton said: “It’s something to celebrate, bitterness doesn’t get us anywhere, it’s about moving forward, always moving forward.

“Pushing it through and then allowing it to accelerate in the way it joyously does because it’s natural and normal for us to be together, working together and being part of communities that are making the world a better place.”

She also paid a special tribute to actress Femi Taylor, who played Jabba The Hutt’s Twi’lek slave dancer Oola in Return Of The Jedi, and portrayed Newton’s mother in Flirting, the Westworld star’s first ever film in 1991.

After revealing she had invited Taylor to the screening, Newton said: “I just want to say to you Femi Taylor, it’s because of people like you, who stand proud and who work their arses off.”

She was joined by her Solo co-star Phoebe Waller-Bridge at the event which celebrated the BFI and Lucasfilm’s partnership programme that gives young people from under-represented backgrounds the chance to work in the industry.

Newton said it was “imperative” that art reflected society as Lucasfilm, which produces Star Wars, announced the scheme would be extended for the franchise’s next film.