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Samuel L. Jackson In Talks To Play Tarzan's Sidekick In Big Screen Adaptation Of Burroughs' Novel

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by Natasha Greeves
December 11, 2013 1:44 PM
17 Comments
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Samuel L Jackson

Last we wrote about this a year ago, Craig Brewer, who was originally set to direct, was no longer attached, despite the fact that he called it a "passion project" for him, with the plan being to tell the Tarzan story in a trilogy; and finally, he had this to say, with regards to the potentially explosive racial subtext in the material...

“I don’t want to give too much away of what I’m doing, but that is something I have thought about, and something I am addressing, and I can just say that “Tarzan” is a love story really, the movie I want to tell, that’s on the backdrop of this adventure, where Tarzan has to reconnect to his love, Jane, and to Africa itself. I know there’s probably going to be some concerns, in terms of racial attitudes toward the original films, and towards the books, but it’s territory that I’ve been in before… I don’t want to say I’m comfortable in it, because I think it’s best to stay a little uncomfortable, and be mindful of things that need to be sensitive, but I think it’s important to tell a great story from one of the most famous literary characters of all time.”

A year later, David Yates (director of 4 Harry Potter movies) is now attached to direct the adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' creation, which saw Tarzan raised in the "Jungles of Africa among the great apes," after his British parents are marooned on the West coast of the continent by mutineers.

Variety says that plot details are still underwraps at the moment, so we don't yet know how exactly this new film will handle the source material, whether it'll be true to the novel, or whether it'll be more of a contemporary take on the novel, and Tarzan is instead an Indiana Jones type of character?

Warner Bros has tapped Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood) to star as the title character, with Samuel L. Jackson in talks to co-star to play a character named George Washington Williamsan ex-mercenary who teams up with Tarzan to save the Congo from a warlord who controls a massive diamond mine. At least, that was the description given last year.

Assuming this is still the case, and this is still the role Samuel L. Jackson is in talks for, it's to be noted that George Washington Williams is a real life historical figure who was a Civil War veteran, and is maybe best known as the author of History of the Negro Race in America, widely considered the first objective history of African Americans. In addition to being an author, Williams was also a pastor, attorney and legislator, as the first African American to serve in the Ohio House of Representatives.

His Congo connection in real life? He is said to have visited the country when it was controlled by Belgian King Leopold II, and was outspoken on the suffering the indigenuous people were experiencing under Leopold's rule - a humanitarian disaster that saw the death's of millions, which Williams would report on.

This was all in the late 1800s to early 1900s. 

Williams could star in a movie all his own.

Jamie Foxx was apparently also in consideration for the role, but there were some scheduling difficulties.

Christoph Waltz is also on board the project.

This new Tarzan is being produced by Jerry Weintraub, Alan RichePeter Riche, Mike Richardson and Keith Goldberg of Dark Horse Entertainment

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17 Comments

  • Donella | December 12, 2013 2:35 PMReply

    Apparently, John Carter (Edgar Rice Burroughs) failed so well that someone decided to fail even better with Tarzan.

    Source material is weak, culturally ignorant, and inadequate to sustain a feature film.

  • Marie | December 12, 2013 11:04 AMReply

    I'm struggling to see how this will work. If it's set in the past, it can't help but come off as supremacist and offensive. If it's set in the present, how does one explain a white person being stranded in a foreign black land? Like the Lone Ranger, this story is very much of a different time with very different racial attitudes. The Disney version worked well because it was a cartoon with talking animals. But a live-action version just feels anachronistic. The choice of this material, when there's so many other more interesting stories out there to tell, is more evidence of the fear and risk-averseness that's infected Hollywood's imagination.

  • Walter Harris Gavin | December 12, 2013 10:46 AMReply

    Tarzan is perhaps one of the most "white supremacist" characters of all time. And in the 21st century to be talking about developing a movie around this character goes to show how much the notion, attitude and need to perpetuate this obscene notion remains extant in the media business. No "black" actor worth his craft should have anything to do with this project. But for most since it's all about "getting paid" they could care less. As Hattie McDaniel is wont to have said "I'd rather play a maid for $7,000 a week than be one for $7.00 a week." We really haven't come very far from that attitude in Hollywood.

  • What If | December 11, 2013 10:49 PMReply

    Maybe they could reinvent the wheel. What if Tarzan's parents booked a trip to the Brazilian jungle instead of the African jungle at the last minute? And Tarzan meets Juanita instead of Jane? Hmmmmm.

  • MOTWNGRL | December 11, 2013 10:20 PMReply

    This is a HORRIBLE idea, YIK! 2013 and we are going to bring back a white man as king of the jungle. Barf!

  • whackmovies | December 11, 2013 9:39 PMReply

    I hate tarzan. Why can't white people leave it alone. It flopped with brendan fraser and will flop again. Run, Samuel, run.

  • Miles Ellison | December 12, 2013 1:14 AM

    They're incapable of leaving it alone. Pro-colonialist racist tripe is irresistible to white filmmakers. It attracts them like rotting carcasses attract buzzards.

  • Miles Ellison | December 11, 2013 9:34 PMReply

    A well-made film about Williams would be interesting, but who would watch it?

  • CareyCarey | December 12, 2013 1:39 AM

    " Would any significant number of people watch a film about an interesting character that's not filtered through some unimportant white person"

    See Miles, that's the exact question I am asking you? I mean, you're implying that it wouldn't draw a crowd, so the question remains, why wouldn't African American support such a movie? We've shown that our dollars can make a mighty big pile of money, so why not this one? Hey, they'd get my money, so who are you saying (what crowd)wouldn't spend their money on this interesting piece of history?

  • Miles Ellison | December 12, 2013 1:06 AM

    It would draw a crowd if it was about some obscure/made up/inconsequential white person with Williams as part of an innocuous backdrop. Much like the proposed B.B. King and ODB movies that have been written about here. The question remains. Would any significant number of people watch a film about an interesting character that's not filtered through some unimportant white person? More importantly, could a film like that possibly get made and be distributed so that people could actually see it?

  • CareyCarey | December 12, 2013 12:00 AM

    Come on Miles, what are you implying? I mean, if it's an interesting story, especially one centered on a black protagonist, wouldn't it draw the "Butler" and the Django crowd?

    Well, to be honest, I know many whites wouldn't be interested in seeing a strong black man with William's skills, but what about African Americans, why wouldn't they be interested in seeing it?

  • CareyCarey | December 11, 2013 8:16 PMReply

    Okay, let's do it, name that sidekick.

    1. Lone Ranger's? That's easy. Tonto

    2. Yogi Bear's? That's easy. Boo-Boo

    3. Batman's? Another easy one. Robin

    Okay, they're gonna get a little more difficult.

    4. Han Solo's? Yep, Chewie

    Hey, I told y'all the game was gonna get a little tight. So put your movie thinking hats on.

    5 – Toy Story (1995) Woody's (Tom Hanks). Now don't tell me you didn't come up with the southern-drawling Slinky Dog.

    6. Shrek's? Now that's a gimme - Donkey (Eddie Murphy)

    7. Harry Potter (2001-2011) . This is tough so I'll give a 2 for one special, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.

    8. Sherlock Holmes's? First and last name................ John Watson

    9. Inception (2010) Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio)
    Answer: Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)

    10. Tarzan's sidekick?

    I know, the only sidekick Tarzan had was a monkey. Damn, I know Sam is all about that money, but playing the sidekick money name George "Cheetah" Washington should give him reason to pause.

  • Karl | December 11, 2013 7:34 PMReply

    I really hope that white people would not dare do this....wtf is wrong with these People? can´t they live without degrading Africa? creepy

  • slb | December 11, 2013 7:01 PMReply

    Meanwhile in Fort Greene Spike Lee's head explodes.

  • Phred G | December 11, 2013 6:44 PMReply

    "Williams could star in a movie all his own". Ok indies, give it a shot. ijs

    As for "TARZAN…" ANYTHING . . .wfi . . .wfi . . .be afraid, be VERRRY afraid.

  • Jess | December 11, 2013 4:29 PMReply

    I don't have a good feeling about this. I'd much rather see Mr. Jackson play an everyday brother going through contemporary struggles...something that would be a statement for men of his generation and the way society views black males.

  • karen marie mason | December 11, 2013 2:30 PMReply

    WTF. Why?

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