Forest Whitaker To Star In & Produce Feature Film On Colin Powell's 'Iraq War Problem'

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by Tambay A. Obenson
September 30, 2013 8:48 PM
12 Comments
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A hat-tip goes to our comrades at The Playlist for sniffing this one out, which was buried within a Variety piece on 10 British talents to watch - a list I skimmed a few days but didn't bother to look any closer at, given that there are no black talents on it (save for Gugu Mbatha-Raw; but she's been in our sights for a few years now, so I won't necessarily consider her that fresh of a face). 

But number 4 within the 10-page pictorial is a profile of screenwriter Ed Whitworth, which contains a mention that he's penned a screenplay centered around Colin Powell's "Iraq war problem," as I call it.

The profile gives very little further information on the project, other than that Forest Whitaker is attached to star in the film (as Powell of course) as well as produce.

Yes, you read that correctly! Forest Whitaker as Colin Powell. He's already played Idi Amin, Eugene Allen (The Butler), and is attached to play Archbishop Desmond Tutu in a project by Roland Joffe, titled The Archbishop And The Antichrist. So why not Colin Powell, I suppose?

According to the Variety profile of Whitworth, Powell, as the project is currently titled...

... tells the behind-the-scenes story of how the then-Secretary of State addressed the U.N. and made the case for war in Iraq. 

Whitworth calls it...

... a tragic story in which his protagonist “ended up doing this thing that he now seemingly regrets and was clearly a huge mistake.”

I did some further research (courtesy of Google search) which, funny enough, brought me back to Shadow & Act, to a December 2011 post in which we'd actually mentioned Powell and Whitworth, when the project made the 2011 Black list. Although, at the time, we were't aware of any involvement by Whitaker' so this might be a recent attachment.

Colin Powell at the center of a feature film narrative is definitely intriguing to me, especially the particular period during which the film will take place, described in the synopsis, and his involvement. You'll recall that throughout the early 2000s, the Bush Administration worked to build a case for invading Iraq, culminating in then Secretary of State Powell's February 2003 address to the United Nations Security Council; the image of Powell holding a model vial of anthrax, while giving his presentation to the United Nations Security Council, is memorable. 

So, it's not a typical Powell biopic, and instead focuses on this brief, momentous period in his life.

It actually sounds like a project for Paul Greengrass to handle. Whenever I think of political drama, and intrigue, set within a very specific period of time,  with tense situations, his name almost always is one of the first that comes to mind. I can already see his energetic handheld camera work, grainy, blue-tinted images, a few jump-cuts, sound elements, etc. 

I just can't immediately picture Forest Whitaker as Colin Powell, as much of a fan of the actor as I am.

Who else is there, however? There aren't exactly many black male actors of his generation to choose from, who could play the part. 

Powell is 76 years old this year, meaning, he would have been roughly 10 years younger during the period in which the story takes place. So how many 60-something or 50-something year old black male actors (who could be easily and convincingly aged with make-up) do you know who could play Colin Powell? 

I would've instead gone with an unknown, and then cast stars around him to help sell the film. 

No matter now, however, as it's apparently Whitaker's, as long as he doesn't change his mind, or something happens that changes his mind for him.

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12 Comments

  • lauren | October 1, 2013 4:02 PMReply

    Now watch and see how few will attack Mr Whitaker like Zoe Seldana was here. 1. Because men can get away with anything. and 2. There's a palpable bias against women, especially of lighter hues and god forbid they were born in another country and culture. smh

  • Lauren | October 1, 2013 5:51 PM

    Come on now- you know that there is a bias against light skinned sisters as much as there's one against dark skinned sisters. just admit that when Terence Howard plays Mandela or Denzel Washington plays Malcom X, the disparity in skin tone is not fodder for the kind of vitriol that Zoe Seldana got. And I'm am by no means her champion nor do I agree with her being cast as Nina Simone, I'm just being objective by noting the different reactions to "tone" miscasts for women versus men.

  • BluTopaz | October 1, 2013 5:40 PM

    So I'm missing your #2 woe is the plight of the light skinned women point as well?

  • Lauren | October 1, 2013 5:25 PM

    You're missing my point; women get scrutinized and vilified way more then men- period regardless of race... When Roseanne was a hit show, everyone talked about how fat she was, few mentioned that John Goodman was 100 lbs. overweight too.

  • BluTopaz | October 1, 2013 4:41 PM

    Get back to us when Forest is slathered with Gold Medal white flour in preparation for his role as Colin.

    And oh yeah, Colin is not a cultural icon with millions of fans for decades, there's that.

  • Donella | October 1, 2013 12:04 PMReply

    Billy Dee Williams played a Powell-like character in Undercover Brother, which took me just as much by surprise. But he pulled it off.

    Whitacker has so much range. Maybe he will be to Colin Powell what Denzel Washington was to Malcolm X. Not the expected choice, but the right choice.

    But then there's also this guy called Harry Lennix...

    Regardless, I'm hopeful that like The Butler, the Powell movie will be told from the title character's point-of-view, and not a generic White observer of events to make audiences feel more comfortable and understanding of that Black man.

  • Geneva Girl | October 1, 2013 10:21 AMReply

    David Fonteno! It took me a while to find his name, which is why he'd never be cast. He plays Judge Robert Parks on the Good Wife. Right look, right age, just no name recognition.

  • @JayTeeDee | September 30, 2013 10:37 PMReply

    I would believe Daniel Day Lewis could play Colin Powell rather than Forest Whitaker #NoDisrespectToDanielDayLewis #NoDisrespectToColinPowell #NoDisrespectToForestWhitaker #ButJefferyWrightWouldBeBetterCasting

  • Miles Ellison | September 30, 2013 10:37 PMReply

    I don't think this gets made unless a white guy is playing Colin Powell. Or if the movie is about some white nobody who was a UN translator.

  • Alias | October 1, 2013 11:37 PM

    I'm with Miles it will probably never see the light of day, but if it did Rick Fitts a well known character actor whose face we all know would be PERFECT!! Especially for the older Powell. As for a younger powell, Adam Lazarre-White, another well known character actor would be great.

    Aside from the complexion of an actor, a smart CD will look at the general facial structure and body structure when casting someone for a biographical piece. Because most pics that we've seen of Malcolm X were in black and white it's really difficult for any of us to know just how light his complexion was. But he and Denzel have very similar physical features (including height), which helped to make Denzel believeable in the role. Additionally, most moviegoers had not seen much real footage of Malcolm X, so it's difficult to compare mannerisms, voice, his gate, etc. so even though Denzel's performance was incredible, perhaps the bar -- at the time -- wasn't as high, which gave him room for his own interpretation of Malcolm X.

    Everyone posting has seen Colin Powell being interviewed, and speak many, many times. We have seen him in living color. Additionally, the role that his immigrant heritage and complexion have played in his ascendancy in the Army cannot be overlooked.

  • Ted | September 30, 2013 10:28 PMReply

    I'm just going to predict this film won't be made. I don't have any specific reason, it just seems like the kind of film that won't be made.

  • Jenny | September 30, 2013 10:22 PMReply

    So, is Whittaker going to partake in skin bleaching or a ton of make up to make him look like Powell? Powell has explained how his being light-skinned offered him opportunities not afforded to darker African-Americans.

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