On Tuesday evening, actress Thandie Newton attended the premiere for Solo: A Star Wars Story. To celebrate her starring role in the franchise — she’s the first Black woman to do so — the Westworld star wore a custom Vivienne Westwood gown featuring images of Black Star Wars characters photographed from her personal collection of figurines. The characters highlighted on the dress include Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian, Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu, Hugh Quarshie as Captain Panaka, and John Boyega as Finn. Though Lupita Nyong’o played a recurring role in two movies, she isn’t included in the lineup as she portrayed a computer-generated character, not a Black woman.
Newton's stylist Erin Walsh shared a sneak peak of the gown on Instagram, writing: “For tonight's #StarWars premiere, Thandie had the brilliant idea to make a dress covered in a print with photos of iconic black @starwars characters! She wanted to celebrate her role in the iconic history of the franchise!! She is the first Black woman onscreen in a @starwars movie with a leading role.”
Walsh also shouted out the photographer who helped bring the dress to life, as well as the team at Vivienne Westwood. “@christianhogstedt photographed the action figures from her personal collection and @viviennewestwood made a SICK print on a gown that's totally ethical given the guidance of @ecoage and @liviafirth,” she wrote.
Newton’s dress is a bold move of celebration considering the pushback Boyega's casting received from non-Black Star Wars fans in 2015. Using the hashtag #BoycottStarWarsVII, Twitter users claimed that adding Boyega to the film about a fictional universe was “anti-white propaganda.” In an interview with Page Six last month, Newtown said of the controversy: “J.J. Abrams really started the conversation by casting John Boyega. I know it was really down to J.J. Abrams that John had that prominent role and it really started it going…I’m just so grateful to him. He’s a single individual and what he’s doing in cinema is unprecedented. I wish it wasn’t unprecedented, but it is.”