Check Out Our New Look

As Oliver Stone And Jamie Foxx Mobilize DreamWorks MLK Pic, Paul Greengrass, Isn’t It High Time For ‘Memphis’?

By | Thursday October 10, 2013 @ 4:52pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Reports are surfacing that DreamWorks is ready to move forward with the authorized version of Martin Luther King‘s life story, the one that MLK’s family is behind and which has the rights to use his copyrighted speeches. They have Jamie Foxx and director Oliver Stone poised for an Any Given Sunday re-team on the project, which they want to do with Warner Bros. All I can think of as director Paul Greengrass and producer Scott Rudin prepare for tomorrow’s opening of Captain Phillips is, Paul, get busy on your MLK film Memphis, because your Oscar-caliber script is just way too good to get relegated to the scrap heap.

I’ve been writing for years about Memphis, Greengrass‘ script about a great man’s final days. It started out at Universal, which put it in turnaround right around the time that the director’s relationship with the studio soured over his unwillingness to do a fourth The Bourne Identity and after he clashed with the studio over the high-budget misfire Green Zone. It became a hot potato project then, when the King family and the activist’s close confidante, Ambassador Andrew Young, objected to it. Among their objections: King is depicted sharing a bed with a woman who was not his wife. The key has always been about opening the film on MLK weekend, and it stalled that first time because they couldn’t set it up again and make it fast enough. They tried again last year, with Veritas in talks to finance with Wild Bunch, but Greengrass instead took on Captain Phillips, the Sony drama about the Somali pirate heist that stars Tom Hanks as Captain Richard Phillips. Rudin joined his Social Network cohorts Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti to deliver a tense, excellent drama.

Related: Opposition To MLK Films Reveals Hard Truths About Biopic Biz

The Memphis script depicts King’s final days as he struggled to organize a protest march on behalf of striking black municipal sanitation workers in Memphis, TN, where he was slain. That storyline is juxtaposed with an intense manhunt for King’s assassin James Earl Ray, involving some of the federal authorities who, at Hoover’s direction, had dogged King’s every step with wiretaps and whispering campaigns before the civil rights leader’s death. The dual narrative is explosive and I don’t know what Kario Salem has written for DreamWorks, but the word biopic makes you worry that it will be reverential and looong. Memphis was a snapshot on parallel with Greengrass’s Bloody Sunday. It is a powerful testament to King’s struggle and his sacrifice, and even if he was portrayed as an imperfect human being, it did not define him. Let’s face it, all those ’60s icons including the Kennedys were not monogamous. Read More »

Comments (19)

Martin Luther King Film ‘Memphis’ Coming Back Around For Paul Greengrass And Scott Rudin

By | Friday November 16, 2012 @ 3:39pm PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE… UPDATE: Memphis, Paul Greengrass‘ film about the final days of Dr. Martin Luther King, is coming back around. Now, I hear that steps are underway to make Memphis Greengrass’ next directorial outing. I’ve heard that Veritas is in talks to finance with Wild Bunch. You might recall the picture was shelved after Universal Pictures dropped out, and Greengrass and producer Scott Rudin shelved it because it became too difficult to set up new financing and shoot the film so that it could be released during the MLK weekend holiday. Greengrass and Rudin moved on to make Captain Phillips, the Sony drama about the Somali pirate heist that stars Tom Hanks as Captain Richard Phillips.

Related: Opposition To MLK Films Reveals Hard Truths About Biopic Biz

The script depicts Dr. King’s final days as he struggled to organize a protest march on behalf of striking black municipal sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was slain. That storyline is juxtaposed with an intense manhunt for King’s assassin James Earl Ray, involving some of the federal authorities who, at Hoover’s direction, had dogged King’s every step with wiretaps and whispering campaigns before the civil rights leader’s death. Read More »

Comments 24

Tony Award-Winning Musical ‘Memphis’ Headed For Big Screen

By | Sunday October 14, 2012 @ 5:00pm PDT
Mike Fleming

BREAKING: Belle Pictures and the Mark Gordon Company have set a film adaptation of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Memphis at Warner Bros-based Alcon Entertainment. Mark Gordon and Molly Smith will produce with Alcon’s Andrew Kosove and Broderick Johnson. Smith has a four-year first-look deal with Alcon.

Created by Joe DiPietro and David Bryan, Memphis is currently touring the United States through the summer of 2013. DiPietro will write the screen musical adaptation of the hugely popular stage show. Memphis also won an Emmy for its PBS airing of the original Broadway production.

In Memphis, a white DJ whose love of R&B music and an up-and-coming black singer sparked a dangerous affair during the rise of rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s. It won the Tony for Best Musical in 2010, along with Best Book of a Musical, Best Score and Best Orchestration.

The Mark Gordon Company’s Allyson Seeger and Gordon began acquiring the rights to “Memphis” approximately two years ago, and Seeger is executive producing the film.

Comments (13)

Universal Steps Up For Paul Greengrass On Martin Luther King Drama ‘Memphis’

By | Wednesday February 23, 2011 @ 11:28am PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures will make Memphis, the drama about the assassination of Martin Luther King written and directed by Paul Greengrass. The picture is being produced by Scott Rudin, the Oscar-nominated producer of Best Picture candidates The Social Network and True Grit. Production on the film is slated to begin in June. It reunites the studio with Greengrass, who last made The Green Zone for Uni and who withdrew from making a fourth installment of The Bourne Identity. Even though that last picture came in at a high budget and didn’t succeed at the box office, Greengrass turned in two hit Bourne sequels and the Oscar-nominated United 93.

Memphis steps in front of several pictures that were being mobilized about Dr. King. There is a Ronald Harwood-scripted DreamWorks project that has the backing of King’s heirs, and Selma, an indie that Lee Daniels was working on with funding from The Weinstein Company (that project seems to have stalled completely), and Harpo’s Oprah Winfrey and Kate Forte have an HBO deal for America: In the King Years, a 7-hour miniseries based on the seminal Taylor Branch book series, being adapted  by Robert Schenkkan

Comments 26

More Film Deals: Paul Greengrass Eyes MLK

By | Thursday January 13, 2011 @ 4:02pm PST

Paul Greengrass is reportedly considering an MLK drama he’s written called Memphis, which would be produced by Scott Rudin. I’m told it’s by no means definite, but if Vulture’s scoop happens – it will happen fast, and will be done down and dirty like Greengrass’s United 93. It could push him past several percolating MLK projects, including: Lee Daniels’ Selma; a Ronald Harwood-scripted drama at DreamWorks that has Steven Spielberg producing and is authorized by MLK’s estate; and the HBO mini that Harpo Films is doing based on Taylor Branch’s book trilogy. There is also the film Wesley Snipes signed on to produce (before heading to prison) about J. Edgar Hoover’s campaign to discredit MLK…

Comments (7)