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Oprah Winfrey Jumps On Board Ava DuVernay's 'Selma' As Producer

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by Tambay A. Obenson
January 19, 2014 2:30 PM
26 Comments
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Oprah

Will the Martin Luther King Jr project most likely to be made first, please stand up?

On the heels of Sergio's post yesterday, announcing that the Oliver Stone/Jamie Foxx MLK project is apparently no more (thanks to concern that Stone's film would tarnish the saintly public image of the Civil Rights leader), comes news, courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter, that Oprah Winfrey has come on board to act as a producer on Ava DuVernay's MLK pic, Selma, which David Oyelowo is attached to star in.

Ava DuVernay

DuVernay took over directing duties of the film from Lee Daniels, who had long been attached to helm, but faced a financing wall (among other hurdles), and moved on to other projects.

Winfrey joins the Pathe UK-backed project, which already boasts Brad Pitt’s Plan B and Christian Colson (who won an Oscar for producing Slumdog Millionaire) as producers. Talk about a trio of heavies behind the project; and let's not forget Pathe as well.

The feature drama centers on the 1965 landmark voting rights campaign regarded as the peak of the civil rights movement. 

So it's not specifically an MLK biopic, as other MLK projects in development, being followed by this blog, are.

It's worth noting that Oprah previously had an HBO miniseries on MLK in the works, a few years ago. No word on whether that's still something to look forward to, given her attachment to DuVernay's Selma.

The other key MLK project we know of is Paul Greengrass' Memphis, which we learned, most recently, that Forest Whitaker will star in.

Whether Oliver Stone's project will be resuscitated remains to be seen. As he shared on Twitter, explaining why it's been cancelled:

I’m told the estate & the ‘respectable’ black community that guard King’s reputation won't approve it. They suffocate the man & the truth [...] I wish you could see the film I would've made. I fear if ‘they’ ever make it, it’ll be just another commemoration of the March on Washington.

In addition to Oyelowo, the cast of Daniels' original Selma (before DuVernay took over) also included Lenny Kravitz (as civil rights activist Andrew Young), Cedric The Entertainer (as Ralph Abernathy), Hugh Jackman (as racist Selma sheriff Jim Clark), and Liam Neeson (as President Lyndon Baines Johnson). 

No word yet on whether any of them is still attached or even interested.

mlk

I should also note, in closing, that it was in 2012 when Lee Daniels, apparently unable to get Selma off the ground, announced that he was teaming with Hugh Jackman (who was also attached to Selma), to take on Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, in a new film that would reportedly explore an "unconventional view of King's murder."

To be titled Orders To Kill, the film was to tell an alternative version of the MLK shooting, with Daniels directing of course, and Jackman starring. It would be based on William Pepper's book of the same name, which had already been adapted to screenplay format, and was apparently ready to be shot, with Millennium Films producing and finance the film.

Last we checked, over a year ago, the project was being shopped around to distributors in Hollywood. But no word on whether it's still alive. Likely not.

For years, films about the Civil Rights Leader and icon have stalled, with disapproval of content (specifically depictions of MLK in each script) by influential voices (Andrew Young and the King Estate notably) being a primary hurdle. 

It however looks like Selma is on its way to becoming a reality, finally, especially with Oprah joining the push.

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26 Comments

  • RidLEE | January 23, 2014 8:10 AMReply

    How is Andrew Young a "hurdle?" First of all, Jamie Foxx and Oliver Stone have NO business trying to use Dr. King to advance their flailing careers. What is it they want to tell us about King? Obviously, the intent is to introduce some crude picture of him.
    Can we please get some original scripts on the screen? These so-called "based on a true story" clunkers are not only inaccurate most of the time, but uninspirational and certainly not worth a $12 movie ticket. Black filmmakers and actors need to stop letting Hollywood use them everything they want to to do a "Black" movie. As we have seen, the only way a Black person is going to get an Oscar is by getting butt naked or playing a servant (The Help) or a slave. Prove me wrong if you can. The Best Man Holiday was a wonderful film and was not even considered Oscar material. People get mad at Tyler Perry, but at least he writes whatever the hell he feels like and puts something semi-fresh out there. He doesn't let Hollywood put him a box where he can only write "slave" stories or "Civil Rights" dramas. Where are the Black sci-fi films? Where are those breakthrough romances (Love Jones)? Hmm, silence.

  • RIDLEE | January 23, 2014 4:26 PM

    Dear Huh
    My "limiting perspective" which included a desire to see more Black sci-fi, romance, etc.? What limits did I impose? The point was that the ONLY black films to win awards and critical acclaim (from H-Wood) always portray black people as servants or sluts. This FACT is clearly documented on lists of Oscar winners. Yes, every kind of movie should be available, but if you have EXAMPLES that actually demonstrate this, please share because inquiring minds want to know!

  • HUH | January 23, 2014 3:13 PM

    nope not silence. black audiences should be able to have every kind of movie under the sun. your limiting perspective is as bad as the people who pull the pursestrings.

  • Donella | January 21, 2014 7:10 PMReply

    I'm interested in seeing a DuVernay/Winfrey production.

    I'm also interested in seeing a Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Harriet Jacobs production.

    If only there were a Black female director and a Black female producer capable of telling the story of a Black female soul survivor...

  • Von braun | January 20, 2014 1:36 PMReply

    If Oprah wants to impress me, she'll get married and be a mom. Because maintaining a family is the hardest thing to do in this world. Until then, she's a rich lady throwing money at people to stay in the center of relevancy and attention.

  • Wow | January 23, 2014 5:45 PM

    Wow...I can't even formulate the words to address one of the most idiotic statements I've seen in a while.

    But I can however point out, that no one...and I can speak to for the world, cares about impressing you. Furthermore if being married and having kids is your idea of the pinnacle of success, my child...you need to expand your mind.

  • LMAO | January 21, 2014 4:16 AM

    @eddluv, i knew some moron would act all mad saying I put Oprah on same level as Mandela. That's not it. All I'm saying is there is only one of her. She worked very hard to overcome a lot of stuff to become one of the most powerful people in media. A black woman. Mandela fought for equality and spent decades in jail. Malala was shot in the face for fighting for education. These are people who will be remembered for both their achievements and their struggles. On top of that, there are people everywhere struggling just to live another day. These people don'r need to have kids to "know struggle."

    Just being a parent is not a back-breaking, soul-destroying, spirit-draining, ego-crushing task. I feel sorry for your kids if you treat them like such a burden. And you must not have struggled or learned anything about the world if you think maintaining a family is the hardest thing to do in it. YOU CAN SHUT UP TOO. Nobody saying parenting is easy, but its not the worst thing ever so SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP

  • WOW | January 21, 2014 3:49 AM

    Von Braun - Yous ound liek a complete idiot. And I'm PRETTY certain Oprah doesn't give a flying f#&k about impressing you. Your first sentence sank you before you even started with the rest of the nonsense.

  • eddluv | January 20, 2014 7:37 PM

    one more thing, @lmao.. if you put orpah on the same level as mandela, you drink to much hollywood koolaid. just stay home with your cats and let the grown ups talk

  • eddluv | January 20, 2014 7:35 PM

    lmao.. you clearly dont have kids. and if you do i feel sorry for them

  • LMAO | January 20, 2014 2:08 PM

    "Because maintaining a family is the hardest thing to do in this world. "

    LOL WUT. That's why there are millions of happy families, but only one Oprah Winfrey. Only one Mandela. Only one Malala. People starving, dying, being tortured and abused, rotting in horrible situations, but maintaining a family is the HARDEST thing? Shut up.

  • Chile, bye. | January 20, 2014 2:01 PM

    -_-

  • BluTopaz | January 20, 2014 1:55 PM

    ...because Oprah stays awake nights wondering how she can impress you and your ilk.

  • Katie | January 20, 2014 12:30 PMReply

    Oh, so Oprah Winfrey decided to actually do something that actually benefits blacks? How long have people been asking her help create opprotunities for blacks? She'll sumble over herself to promote whites (esp when she had a larger platform on ABC), but only promotes us when her network was tanking. SMH All that damn money and last thing she produced for blacks was Precious (2009).

    Thank God for crowdfunding sites. We don't have to wait on Hollywood negros.

  • CareyCarey | January 23, 2014 6:53 PM

    Katie!!!??? Being in the dark at Andre Seewood's post is understandable, he's deep, he could go over your head, so your misinformed comment (over there) was given a pass, but there's really no excuse for this silliness.

    Listen, you may have a personal beef with Oprah but you have to know she has given voice to more intelligent and artistic people of color than any person on this earth. That list numbers in the thousands. From black filmmakers , black authors, black musical geniuses, black business owners, heads of foreign states, prominent black lawyers, doctors, chief cooks and bottle washers, Oprah has been the driving force in exposing them to the world, which opens a door for many more to follow. Oh, should I, or do I have to mention her unmatched effort in highlighting the ever- present struggles of the black female? Not to mention her nearly 1/2 billion dollars she's given to needy people of color.

    Look Ms. Katie, I don't know if you're a black woman, if not, that may explain your ignorance. You know, you may be mad, envious and jealous of the black woman's fortune and fame, I understand that, however, her overall accomplishments are well documented? So, although I know some people are constitutionally incapable of seeing the truth even when it smacks them in their face, I am asking you to drop your "defenses", check out the many ways Oprah's accomplishments has benefited blacks, before making another ridiculous accusation.

  • KaffeeKlatsch | January 21, 2014 5:17 PM

    Actually, Oprah came on board of Precious after it was made and screened at Sundance. She wasn't there from the beginning

  • What iz you talkin bout | January 20, 2014 1:11 PM

    Oprah produced Serving Life (2011), Precious, The Great Debaters, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Beloved, The Wedding, and The Women of Brewster Place. She regularly gives to black causes and organizations.

  • Seymour Nutts | January 19, 2014 11:57 PMReply

    All that anyone seems to give a shyt about is depicting King like the black Don Draper, as if the very struggles that made his legend aren't enough. Nobody bitched over Spielberg's angelic treatment of Lincoln, who wasn't exactly born interested in emancipation.

  • Smith | January 20, 2014 1:38 PM

    If MLK was indeed the black Don Draper, that would be the most coolest thing ever.

  • Brando Calrissian | January 19, 2014 9:55 PMReply

    This story needs to be told... again?

    New narratives for black actors and audiences can wait while we leverage white guilt for an Oscar.

    It's not even that I don't want to see this movie made, but as a black moviegoer, I WANT VARIETY but instead I'll have to wait five years for another epic slave and/or butler movie (that I'll be told is a story that needs to be told by an elder in their early 50s on up) with the same ole Madea comedy and action hero standard we've come to expect since the 70s.

    Thanks!

  • RidLEE | January 23, 2014 8:00 AM

    I agree! Producing these "real life" stories just feeds into the stereotype that Black people cannot produce original stories. I love and respect all my civil rights heroes, but we need something NEW!

  • Julius Hollingsworth | January 19, 2014 5:55 PMReply

    Keep your eye on the prize.

  • Joseph Powell | January 19, 2014 4:32 PMReply

    It's really a shame that an honest depiction of the man's life, and not the legend as it stands, can't be considered, let alone produced and shown in the light of day. I feel that does more of a disservice to him than any attempt to show him as a human being, which is what he was. Too bad there's no way to circumvent the naysayers and nitpickers.

  • Well | January 23, 2014 5:53 PM

    I understand your point, I just don't agree with Oliver Stone being the person to paint that picture. Not saying I'm right, or I have the right reasons for feeling that way, but that's how I feel.

  • Jesse Young III | January 19, 2014 9:16 PM

    Joseph there is a simple way to circumvent the process. Just keep an eye out on this: www[dot]advancedeyefilms[dot]com

  • Alison Wonderland | January 19, 2014 3:31 PMReply

    Wasn't one of the hurdles that Lee Daniels encountered the King family's condemnation of the script (which includes Dr. King's alleged affair with a biracial woman)?

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