SXSW may not be in a galaxy far, far away, but the Force will be strong this year with the announcement that Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson and his longtime producer Ram Bergman will be speaking at the conference.
Johnson is just the latest Star Wars director to appear, following on from JJ Abrams in 2016, and Rogue One's Gareth Edwards last year. However, he's not the only instantly recognizable filmmaker in attendance. Spike Lee, fresh off the surprise debut of his new Amazon project Pass Over at Sundance, will make a highly timely appearance as audiences increasingly think about, and studios slowly move to reflect, the questions of diversity and representation that he has talked about for decades.
They're just two of the big names added to the speaker list for this year, including two that may bring a dose of controversy: Lena Dunham, who has become as much a lightning rod as a creative force, and Chelsea Manning, whose credentials among some liberal supporters have become dented over recent accusations about attending parties hosted by alt-right provocateur Mike Cernovich.
The latest round of speaker additions also includes two major featured panels. First, several of the leading female voices in film criticism will discuss the vital role of women in cinema culture. That's joined by a massive musical flashback, with members of Talking Heads and Television discussing the importance and legacy of legendary rock club CBGB. Additionally, the already-announced panel for HBO's Westworld adds cast members Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, and Jeffrey Wright.
Aside from a multitude of bands, SXSW has been piling the speakers thick this year. The scheduling began in August with author Ta-Nehisi Coates, followed by a second round headed by Moonlight director Barry Jenkins (making his first return to the fest since 2008's Medicine for Melancholy). Then in October, Darren Aronofksy and Keith Urband joined the party, followed quickly by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, and a much more controversial figure in IT entrepreneur and Gawker-killer Peter Thiel. January already saw some big name announcements, including philanthropist Melinda Gates, and Priscilla Presley to discuss Elvis Presley: The Searcher, HBO's new two-part documentary about the King. (That also doesn't include the music keynotes and speakers: former Def Jam boss Lyor Cohen, indie icon Kim Deal, rap cornerstone Common, and legendary producer Steve Albini).
Here's the full list of today's additions:
• Girls creator Lena Dunham in conversation with Glamour Editor-in-Chief Samantha Barry
• Tony- and four-time Oscar nominee Ethan Hawke
• Director Rian Johnson (Looper, Star Wars: The Last Jedi) and producer Ram Bergman
• Director and activist Spike Lee
• Emmy-winning actress Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black, Stronger)
• The cast and creators of HBO's Westworld, with stars Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, and Jeffrey Wright, and showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy
• The Female Voices of Film Twitter: Amy Nicholson (Variety), Jen Yamato (Los Angeles Times), and Monica Castillo (The New York Times), in conversation with Fandango correspondent Alicia Malone on the position of women in film criticism
• Chef and television personality José Andrés and with Chefs Club International chief creative officer Dana Cowin in conversation with Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern
• John Krafcik, CEO of Google autonomous car spin-off Waymo
• Business on the Blockchain: featuring Hyperledger Executive Director Brian Behlendorf and J.P. Morgan blockchain program lead Amber Baldet
• From CBGB to the World: A Downtown Diaspora, featuring former Talking Heads backline Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz, photographer Julia Gorton, Television guitarist Richard Lloyd, and musician and producer Chris Stamey
• 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager in conversation with CBS chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan
• Recode executive editor Kara Swisher, in conversation with CNN's chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour
• Supermodel and entreprenuer Karlie Kloss and Adidas head of global brands Eric Liedtke, in conversation with NPR's Guy Raz
• Activist and Maryland Democratic primary candidate for the U.S. Senate Chelsea Manning, in conversation with Sally Singer, creative digital director of Vogue
• Apple’s Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue in conversation with CNN senior reporter Dylan Byers
• Amber Venz Box, president and co-founder of rewardStyle and LIKEtoKNOW.it
• YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki in conversation with Wired Editor-in-Chief Nicholas Thompson
SXSW 2018 runs Fri., March 9, to Sun., March 18. For badges and info, visit www.sxsw.com.
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