By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist December 9, 2011 at 9:07AM
Well, here's a pretty big surprise. Eddie Murphy, who was poised for a comeback with "Tower Heist," seemed to have those hoped dash by the film underperforming at the box office, coupled with his association in the Ratnergate Oscar ceremony fallout, that led to the comic actor stepping down as the host. And just when we pegged Murphy as simply returning to his recent run of dreck -- he's got "Hong Kong Phooey" on the horizon for chrissakes -- we were hit out of left field with this.
In what sounds like an amazing pairing, Spike Lee will take the helm of an untitled biopic on notorious Washington mayor Marion Barry, with Murphy to play the lead. The strange wild story of Barry is hard to encapsulate in a few sentences, but he started his career as civil rights activist before entering politics in the 1970s, and wound up serving four terms as mayor from the '80s through the '90s. However, the image most have of Barry is as the crack cocaine smoking leader who was caught on tape using in video footage that went around the world. But it speaks to his personality and power, that even despite that incident, he was voted in again into power after a brief prison sentence.
The project is set up at HBO, a familiar place for Lee, with the network having back his Hurricane Katrina documentaries as well as the developing series "Da Brick" which he is executive producing. The project will be thoroughly researched with D.C. journalists Harry Jaffe and Tom Sherwood (authors behind "Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, D.C.") and Dana Flor and Toby Oppenheimer (filmmakers behind the documentary "The Nine Lives Of Marion Barry") on board as consultants. John Ridley, producer and writer on "Da Brick" and the scribe behind Steve McQueen's forthcoming "Twelve Years A Slave," will write the project.
This isn't the first time HBO has tried to tell the Barry tale -- they previously had a vehicle with Jamie Foxx in the lead, written by Chris Rock (who has told a zillion Barry jokes) that never get off the ground. But we have to say, perhaps that was for the best, as this project is brimming with promise. Let's hope the momentum on this keeps going and Murphy sticks with it as it could be quite the remarkable film. [The Washington Post]