Lee Daniels May Be Directing A Sammy Davis Jr. Biopic For HBO (No Word On Byron Allen's)

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by Tambay A. Obenson
August 19, 2013 5:31 PM
3 Comments
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Roger Friedman at Showbiz411 is reporting exclusively that Lee Daniels is currently circling an HBO Sammy Davis Jr. project.

Add this to the other gazillion projects on his slate. The man's certainly busy, despite struggles in getting his films financed. 

Friedman doesn't give much more on the above news, so let's see if this has any legs.

Recalling my 50+ Biopic Projects On Black Public Figures "In Limbo" post, there are currently 3 Sammy projects we know of that are in some stage of development. This one makes it 4 - assuming it's not one of the existing 3: 2 feature films; and 2 stage works.

First, it was announced in December 2011 that Byron Allen's Entertainment Studios acquired rights to Davis' life story from his daughter Tracey Davis, with plans to develop both a feature film AND a stage production.

However, a year after the Byron Allen announcement, a $35+ million lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles, by independent producer Rick Appling against Byron Allen and his Entertainment Studios, claiming that he (Appling) owns the rights the Sammy Davis Jr's life story, not Allen, and that Allen screwed him over royally!

His 12-page suit (which you can read HERE) was asking for $35 million plus other damages, stating that Allen's interference has prevented him from advancing his plans for a film about Sammy. 

Apparently, Sammy's daughter, Tracey, may have sold the rights (whether accidentally, or not) to her father’s life story to two different production companies; although the lawsuit doesn't name her as a defendant or plaintiff in the case.

Where that suit stands at the moment, I can't say. There haven't been any reports on it since the initial reveal.

So it's anyone's guess at this point where the film stands.

And the second project is titled Yes I Can, a new musical inspired by the life and times of Davis Jr, which was said to be in the works from producers Arlie Cone and Steven Hayes, with a possible Broadway run on the horizon. 

Sam Scalamoni of Disney's Beauty and the Beast on Broadway, was set to direct.

Yes I Can is also said to be inspired by Davis' life, and is intended as a musical fable featuring a charismatic, triple-threat song-and-dance man, in the same way that Dreamgirls featured a Supremes-like Motown girl group.

The show, which will feature music by Tony Award-winner Charles Strouse, is only the latest in a string of Davis-themed musicals, including the Old Globe Theatre's 2009 production of Sammy, and Eric Jordan Young's 2006 production, Sammy & Me.

And this won't be the first time he's been *represented* on screen; You may recall that Don Cheadle won a Golden Globe for his performance as Davis in the 1998 HBO film The Rat Pack; also worth noting is that several comedians/actors have impersonated Davis during their careers, like Eddie GriffinGarrett MorrisEddie MurphyTim MeadowsTommy Davidson and even Billy Crystal and others.

As a star of stage and screen (big and small), singer, dancer, husband (thrice), children, near-fatal accident, conversion to Judaism, hanging out in the White House with presidents, and much more... what a full, stirring life Sammy Davis Jr led, which could translate into one heck of a film... depending on who else is involved in putting it all together.

Stay tuned...

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3 Comments

  • Donna | August 20, 2013 9:04 AMReply

    The case against Byron Allen was thrown out. The Judge explained that the plaintiff should have sued Tracy Davis for double dipping on the exclusive rights, and that Allen had nothing to do with her decision to do so. Hence the dismissal.

    It doesn't matter anyway, since Byron Allen doesn't have any money to produce Sammy. The guy is almost fully leveraged, and owes $-millions in unpaid residuals to comedians, actors and writers.

    A producer at his company told me on Saturday that Allen just cancelled production on his sitcoms after losing over $10-million. That guy is broke, and Sammy will need to come from someone else.

  • Miles Ellison | August 19, 2013 10:24 PMReply

    So is this proposed film actually about Sammy Davis, Jr. , or is it "really" a story about Frank Sinatra? Or about some white nobody who fetched cigarettes for him once?

  • blah, blah | August 19, 2013 6:43 PMReply

    What happened to his Dr. King biopic? The one where he was going to pull the curtain back on King's adultery and piss a whole heap of black folks off?

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