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Filming Begins on Ava DuVernay's MLK Biopic 'Selma': Will We See It at Fall Fests?

Thompson on Hollywood By Beth Hanna and Ryan Lattanzio | Thompson on Hollywood May 21, 2014 at 3:14PM

UPDATED: Paramount Pictures and Pathe have announced that principal photography has begun on director Ava DuVernay's Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic "Selma." Will we see it at the fall festivals?
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Ava DuVernay
Ava DuVernay

UPDATED: Paramount Pictures and Pathe have announced that principal photography has begun on director Ava DuVernay's Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic "Selma." 

DuVernay, acclaimed for 2012's "Middle of Nowhere," will be shooting Paul Webb's script in Atlanta, Georgia and Montgomery and Selma, Alabama. Plan B's Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner -- the folks behind "12 Years a Slave" -- will coproduce with Cloud Eight and Oprah Winfrey. 

"Selma" stars David Oyelowo (who shined in "Lee Daniels' The Butler") as MLK Jr., Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, Tom Wilkinson, Andre Holland and Omar J. Dorsey.

Will we see the film on the Fall festival circuit, given the pedigree of the stars and production team, and the director as far as the indie film world is concerned? In June 2012, Plan B went to work on "12 Years a Slave," wrapping filming mid-August and holding off for fall fests in September 2013 -- a long way to go. 

Either way, count us excited for this one.

EARLIER:Writer-director Ava DuVernay has signed on to helm the biopic "Selma," about a key event in the Civil Rights Movement: Martin Luther King's voting rights campaign in 1965. DuVernay's leading man in her 2012 award-winning and critically acclaimed drama "Middle of Nowhere," David Oyelowo, is set to play King.

The project is timely: the 50th anniversary of MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech is in August of this year. Per Variety, DuVernay has been scouting locations and working on the script with scribe Paul Webb for the past couple of months (the screenplay has been on the Blacklist since 2007). Director Lee Daniels -- whose upcoming film "The Butler" is facing title woes -- was originally attached to the project.

DuVernay, the first African-American woman to win Sundance's Best Director Award (for "Middle of Nowhere"), was approached by producers, including Brad Pitt's banner Plan B and Pathe UK, to direct "Selma" after they saw her 2012 film. Most recently, DuVernay directed a documentary for ESPN on Venus Williams' fight for equal prize money at Wimbledon, "Venus Vs."

As the anniversary of "I Have a Dream" approaches, other MLK projects in the pipeline are Paul Greengrass and Scott Rudin's "Memphis," following the final days of King before his assassination in 1968; and Steven Spielberg has a long-gestating DreamWorks drama that centers on King's admiration for Mahatma Gandhi. 

This article is related to: News, In The Works, Ava DuVernay, News


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.