Oliver Stone has run smack into the same wall on a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr biopic that director Paul Greengrass hit when Universal kicked his MLK project Memphis to the curb two years back. Stone took to his Twitter account today to say that DreamWorks and Warner Bros rejected his script rewrite and that he was done with the movie that also had Jamie Foxx attached. It came down to the studios — which are in lockstep with the MLK estate that brought them the right to use his famous copyrighted speeches — rejecting Stone’s characterization of long-running rumors that King Jr. engaged in extramarital affairs. “I’m told the estate & the ‘respectable’ black community that guard King’s reputation won’t approve it. They suffocate the man & the truth,” Stone tweeted. He also added a message directly to MLK: ‘I wish you could see the film I would’ve made. I fear if ‘they’ ever make it, it’ll be just another commemoration of the March on Washington.”
Related: Opposition To Martin Luther King Films Reveals Hard Truths About Biopic Biz
This is almost a carbon copy of what happened two years ago with Memphis, the superb script that Captain Phillips helmer Greengrass wrote and set at Universal with producer Scott Rudin. The project stopped in its tracks after a version of the script found its way to the King family, and Ambassador Andrew Young, who was one of Dr. King’s closest confidants during the turbulent Civil Rights movement of the ’60s. While Universal was never really clear on why it halted the movie, blaming scheduling, it is clear that a film disowned by MLK’s family might hurt its audience appeal. This is an incredibly difficult and emotional situation because it depicts flaws in a man whose message of tolerance and equality and nonviolence still means so much to so many and has made him one of the most galvanizing figures of the 20th Century. Read More »
Few Hollywood films are as difficult to mount as the biopics of historical figures. From The Hurricane to Malcolm X, A Beautiful Mind to Munich, The Social Network to even the most recent Best Picture Oscar winner The King’s Speech, there is always criticism that the filmmakers have been either too tough or too soft on flawed protagonists. It also isn’t unusual for that criticism to begin in the early script stage, even though screenplays get rewritten and vetted so much that a first or second draft might not reflect what ultimately ends up in the finished film. A recent target was Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar, whose script bizarrely was critiqued in The New York Times by a screenwriter who’d done a Hoover film years earlier and thus may have had a vested interest in seeing the new project not best his own. But what happens when the family and friends of a biopic subject get an early look at a script and don’t like what they’ve read? Should studios and/or distributors succumb to such pressure from insiders or ignore them? And what exactly in biopics constitutes fact vs fiction?
Martin Luther King Jr was killed 43 years ago today. Deadline revealed last Friday that Universal Pictures had dropped the Scott Rudin-produced and Paul Greengrass-directed MLK project Memphis. I’d heard that the decision came after the King estate and MLK confidante Andrew Young applied … Read More »
Bounce TV, which bills itself as the nation’s first over-the-air broadcast TV network designed exclusively for African-American audiences, announced today that it will launch in the fall via carriage on the digital signals of local stations. The 24/7 digital network plans to target the 25-54 demographic with a “mix of theatrical motion pictures, live sporting events, documentaries, specials, inspirational faith-based programs, off-net series and original programming.” It has signed multi-year licensing agreements with NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution for almost 200 films; Sony Pictures Television for almost 100 titles, Codeblack Entertainment for movies and documentaries; and Image Entertainment for more than 50 movies, docs and stage plays.
The network’s founders include Ambassador Andrew Young and Martin Luther King III. Rob Hardy and Will Packer, co-founders of Rainforest Films, will serve as chief content officer and chief strategy/marketing officer, respectively. Former Turner Broadcasting executives Ryan Glover and Jonathan Katz will serve as EVPs. “I am proud that our network will deliver free programming exclusively for our under-served community and be accessible to all homes around the country and not just those who pay for television,” Young said. “We look forward to Bounce TV entertaining African American viewers for many years to come.”
EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has dropped plans to finance and distribute Memphis, the Paul Greengrass-directed film about the final days and assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. The studio has halted progress on a film scripted by Greengrass and produced by Scott Rudin. Universal picked it up last month, with plans to put the picture in to production in June so that it could be ready for release around MLK Weekend, 2012. Why has this happened? The studio confirms that it halted the movie, but attributed it to timing and scheduling, and an uncertainty the film could be pulled together in time for next February.
I’ve heard another factor put pressure on the picture: the MLK estate was highly critical of the project, and exerted pressure on the studio to call it off. I’ve heard that Andrew Young, former confidante of the civil rights leader, reached out to Universal personally to register his objections. Now, I’d heard similar whispers when Lee Daniels was trying to make the MLK project, Selma, which seemed about to get underway last fall when The Weinstein Company stepped up as financier, but didn’t get off the ground. The family, I’ve heard, made it known that it might go public with its displeasure over Greengrass’s script, which could have hurt the film’s theatrical prospects. Whether this is because the film goes in controversial directions, or because the … Read More »
West Wing creator and An American President scribe Aaron Sorkin will make his feature directorial debut on a drama that chronicles the scandalous implosion of Senator John Edwards’ 2008 run to be the Democratic presidential candidate. It ended shockingly when a tabloid newspaper revealed that the married senator had fathered an illegitimate child with Rielle Hunter — a claim Edwards denied, denied, denied, and then finally admitted, much to the amazement of his cancer-stricken wife Elizabeth who was blindsided. Sorkin has optioned The Politician, the book by one-time Edwards aide Andrew Young that was published last January by Thomas Dunne Books.
“This is a first hand account of an extraordinary story filled with motivations, decisions and consequences that would have lit Shakespeare up,” Sorkin said in a statement. “There is much more to Andrew’s book than what has been reported and I am grateful that he’s trusting me with it.” Sorkin is no stranger to the political arena with credits that also include A Few Good Men and Charlie Wilson’s War. Sorkin optioned the project on his own and hasn’t yet involved a studio. He’ll write the script and produce the film in a deal just closed by WME and his attorney Richard Heller. Sorkin is coming off two high-profile scripting jobs: the David Fincher-directed The Social Network, which opens October 1, and Moneyball, an adaptation of the Michael Lewis book that is … Read More »