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Universal Greenlights Paul Greengrass Directed 'Memphis'; Filming Starts In June

by Kevin Jagernauth
February 23, 2011 7:42 AM
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Despite the rather ugly dissolution of "Bourne 4" and the poor box office performance of "Green Zone," it looks like Paul Greengrass and Universal are still best buds after all.

Deadline reports that Universal has given the greenlight to "Memphis," a project that first came to light last month. Written by Greengrass, the historical drama centers on the final days of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the springtime of 1968, when he was trying to help the city’s sanitation workers find common ground. This was a tumultuous time for King: he was facing heat from the President over his opposition to the Vietnam War while fighting marginalization due to his insistence on focusing his efforts on the poor working class. Memphis was also the place he would give his famous "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech just a day before he would be assassinated.

The project was previously rumored to be be set up at Focus Features, but with Universal now taking it on and with uber-producer Scott Rudin behind it, we imagine this will not only be getting a sizable budget, but you can probably slot it in for the the Oscar race in 2012. Filming is expected to kick off in June and while no cast has yet been announced, this iconic role is going to be a star maker for whoever steps into it. We suppose this now also means Lee Daniels' long-gestating "Selma" is probably off the table for now.

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  • Corsiva | February 23, 2011 9:16 AMReply

    I’m so glad he’s making something in the vein of The Murder of Stephen Lawrence/Bloody Sunday/U93 – the stuff I love the most from him.

    If we’re going to be recreating the last days in the life of someone as history-making as MLK, I’ll take a studio picture written and directed by Paul Greengrass over a Lee Daniels indie or Oprah HBO miniseries any day of the week.

    In short, hell yeahs all around for this one.

  • Edward Davis | February 23, 2011 8:57 AMReply

    He was supposed to be Greengrass' Hendrix.

  • BuntyHoven | February 23, 2011 8:53 AMReply

    "Anthony Mackie will have a major role too."

    Really? I know he's a Playlist fave, but he doesn't have any history of working with Greengrass like Damon does.

  • Edward Davis | February 23, 2011 8:42 AMReply

    "Liam Neeson as Lyndon Johnson and Robert De Niro and George Wallace? BONUS!"
    yeah, that was gonna happen...

    i'd expect budget on this one to be 30-40 max. and they're gonna try and use Greengrass --- who has way more pull then Lee Daniels -- to pull some major talent. Don't be surprised if Damon gets a supporting role somewhere. Anthony Mackie will have a major role too.

  • Kevin Klawitter | February 23, 2011 8:40 AMReply

    I was honestly a little more interested in "Selma". It seemed a bit more ambitious, with a portrait of how MLKs policies affected the political power structure. Besides, Liam Neeson as Lyndon Johnson and Robert De Niro and George Wallace? BONUS!

  • bobmorton | February 23, 2011 8:12 AMReply

    hasnt cuba gooding filled out? couldnt he use a real comeback role? ... not that he was ever really "here".

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