There are two recent films centered around Civil Rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. that reached the brink of getting a greenlight, but ultimately fell by the wayside. One is Paul Greengrass’ dramatic thriller Memphis, about the days preceding MLK’s assassination, and the other is Selma, a historical drama based around the Selma to Montgomery Marches that, at one point, had David Oyelowo and Hugh Jackman lined up to star under the direction of Lee Daniels (Precious).
Jackman and Daniels are now putting together a different film about Dr. King, titled Orders to Kill. The project is an adaptation of William F. Pepper’s non-fiction book “Orders to Kill: The Truth Behind the Murder of Martin Luther King Jr” and features a script draft by Hanna Weg (who is developing a Gerard Butler vehicle titled The Bricklayer).
Orders to Kill details Pepper’s (Jackman) eighteen years of investigation into the murder of Dr. King, driven by the belief that convicted killer James Earl Ray is not, in fact, the man who shot MLK, and a more elaborate conspiracy was behind the activist’s death (one involving Memphis police and other members of the U.S. government). Pepper’s one-man campaign eventually landed the support of Dr. King’s son, Dexter King, and culminated with the King family’s wrongful-death lawsuit in 1999, as argued by Pepper (who is still alive, at the time of writing this).
Movies Now has it on good authority from an insider that Orders to Kill is meant “to tell an alternative version of the King shooting.” Millenniums Films will produce and finance, having previously funded Precious and Daniels’ already-controversial upcoming thriller The Paperboy. Orders to Kill is shopping around to distributors right now, but should be acquired fairly quickly (what with Jackman onboard).
Comparisons between Orders to Kill and Oliver Stone’s JFK are already circulating, based on speculation that the former could be equally polarizing and provocative in its assertions about the murder of MLK. JFK generated quite the divisive response – prompted by accusations that Stone played fast and loose with the facts/rumors behind the killing of the film’s namesake – but ultimately that charged buzz was transformed into box office and Oscars glory. Whether or not Orders to Kill travels a similar road to success, remains to be seen.
Jackman is currently working on The Wolverine and remains attached to headline The Greatest Showman on Earth in the foreseeable future, but his schedule should be clear afterwards. Production is currently underway on Daniels’ next directorial effort, The Butler, but the plan is for him to thereafter collaborate with Jackman on the MLK project. That’s assuming Orders to Kill doesn’t suffer an eleventh hour collapse, like Selma (knock on wood).
We’ll keep you updated on Orders to Kill as the story develops.
Source: LA Times