Richard Pryor Biopic Now In The Hands Of Forest Whitaker w/ Input From Pryor's Widow

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by Tambay A. Obenson
March 28, 2013 2:38 PM
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And the beat goes on, as the project changes hands yet again... although maybe in Forest Whitaker's hands (as producer) - who seems to be at the beginning of a bit of a roll (after the huge success of Fruitvale at Sundance this year - a film he produced) - it'll finally become a reality.

Deadline is reporting that Whitaker has taken over as producer of the Richard Pryor biopic that's been in development forever, most recently, with Marlon Wayans attached to star, and Chris Rock producing alongside Adam Sandler.

Whether or not Wayans will be on Whitaker's short list of actors for the role, isn't public info yet, although Deadline suggests that Whitaker's Fruitvale star, Michael B. Jordan might get a look.

I like Jordan as an actor, but, frankly, I don't think he's the man for the job. I'd have to see an audition tape first.

A new script is being penned, with input from Pryor's widow, Jennifer Lee Pryor, so, I suppose we could say that this won't be one of those troubled biopics made without the approval/blessing of the subject's family.

Although, if there's suddenly some objection from someone we don't know of yet, I won't be surprised, given recent biopic project happenings.

But while we wait to see what comes of Whitaker's take-over, you should be aware of what has been dubbed the definitive documentary on Pryor's life, directed by Marina Zenovich (known mostly for directing the multiple award-winning 2008 documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired), which will make its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival next month.

Jennifer Lee Pryor is producer of the doc; she's also the person who calls it a definitive documentary, stating:

"It's a definitive documentary... It's authorized by the estate. I've never cooperated with any of the others."

It's been reported that director Marina Zenovich was given access to estate photos and other materials, and many of Pryor's friends and family opened up for the project, which will focus on Pryor's transformation from successful but mild stand-up comedian, to successful but dangerous social critic. 

The turning point happens in Las Vegas, where Pryor no longer feels comfortable in his own skin, for taking the safe route of punch-line comedy while leaving his past buried. "He just really got to see what the world was about," says Jennifer Lee Pryor. "He was making good money. It was a case of learning from an answered prayer: 'I got what I wanted. But what is it? Who am I?'" Pryor answered that last question with brutal honesty in his new brand of no holds barred stage humor. It rocketed him to superstardom, before the fire and fall. At that point, as therapy for his suicide attempt, he began writing a journal, which he kept private. The journal was used in the documentary, for the first time ever. "I think it allows insight," his widow says, without offering specifics, for now. "I think it's definitely meant to show publicly. There's private stuff in there. But Richard was a very public person."

All interesting, I thought - especially the part about his private journal, which he kept as therapy for his suicide attempt, now being made public.

So this sounds like it should be a comprehensive kind of film - one that gives us much more insight into the man and his life, than any previous work.

The completed film, which is titled Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic, will be broadcast on Showtime as part of a new documentary series showcase titled Closeup, which will give measured and complex looks at the lives of several notable public figures, with Richard Pryor being among the first to be "provocatively studied," as Showtime describes it.

The film includes interviews with Whoopi GoldbergRobin WilliamsMel BrooksQuincy JonesLily Tomlin, Jesse Jackson and more.

But first, as noted, it'll debut at the Tribeca Film Festival in April, which runs from April 17-28, right in my back yard, so you know we'll be covering it.

Stay tuned for updates on Whitaker's project... it might suddenly be fast-tracked.

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