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Forest Whitaker In Talks To Play Martin Luther King Jr. In Paul Greengrass' 'Memphis'

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act May 30, 2013 at 8:55PM

One of at least 5 film projects in the works based on either the life of MLK, or some significant period during his 39 years on this planet, director Paul Greengrass' MLK assassination pic, Memphis, was once a sure-thing, before the studio initially set to back it, Universal Pictures, decided against financing and distributing the film.
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Forest Whitaker

One of at least 5 film projects in the works based on either the life of MLK, or some significant period during his 39 years on this planet, director Paul Greengrass' MLK assassination pic, Memphis, was once a sure-thing, before the studio initially set to back it, Universal Pictures, decided against financing and distributing the film.

Last we reported on it, in November, 2012, it looked like it was back in motion, when French distribution company Wild Bunch, came onboard, with super producer Scott Rudin producing, after almost a year in hiatus. 

The script was said to be "Oscar caliber stuff," by those who claimed to have read it at the time.

Skip ahead to today, to news that Forest Whitaker is in talks to play Martin Luther King Jr. in Greengrass' film - according to The Wrap, in an exclusive, adding that Abu Dhabi-based Veritas Films is joining Wild Bunch in financing the film, which looks like it will be Greengrass' next project, which he plans to shoot in a similar "docu-style" as he did with United 93.

But chances are, if the script Greengrass is going to go with is the same as it's always been, it'll likely be one of those biopics that is made without the approval of those protecting the image of the subject.

You'll recall that there was pressure from the MLK estate (and Andrew Young's objections) to call off the project, because they were unhappy with its "warts and all" script.

The film will focus on the events leading up to King’s assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, while he was trying to organize the city’s sanitation workers in spring of 1968. It will also focus on the manhunt for James Earl Ray.

Meanwhile, Lee Daniels' Selma, which was announced before Greengrass' project, and was once thought to be his next film right after Precious, will likely never see the light of day,

The only one that has seemed like a sure-thing is the Oprah Winfrey/HBO/Steven Spielberg/DreamWorks project that has the backing of King’s estate - the only one that we're aware of, with the estate's approval.

Forest Whitaker as MLK? Hmm... I don't immediately see it. But I like Whitaker as an actor, and I'm certainly open to being convinced. 

This article is related to: Forest Whitaker


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