MLK Biopic ‘Selma’ May Be Moving Forward; Oprah Producing

Published 1 year ago by

Lee Daniels The Butler Oprah Winfrey MLK Biopic Selma May Be Moving Forward; Oprah Producing

Untangling the threads of Hollywood’s competing in-development biopics about Civil Rights Movement leader Martin Luther King, Jr. is a task that’s complicated at best; rumors and murmurs on a number of dueling projects detailing the man’s life have been bouncing around for several years at the time of this writing, with no end in sight to the apparently Herculean struggle to secure a green light for any of them. If Oliver Stone and Paul Greengrass can’t get MLK pictures off the ground, who can?

Apparently none other than Lady O herself, Oprah Winfrey. Oprah has hopped on board the allusively titled Selma as a producer following her successful co-starring role in Lee Daniels’ The Butler; without missing a beat, Paramount has reacted to her newfound involvement on the film by scrambling to acquire US and Canadian distribution rights. After all the hemming and hawing, it turns out that Selma just needed the participation of someone with Oprah’s influence to grease the wheels on production.

Credit goes to Deadline for putting the word out. Reportedly, Oprah got roped into Selma thanks to the machinations of Ava DuVernay, the publicist-turned-filmmaker who replaced the aforementioned Daniels as director on the film last summer. Recently, DuVernay had the idea of sneaking a copy of her script to Oprah, and that one act of consideration has turned into what looks like a serious coup for the film’s momentum; while there’s no definite deal in place yet, this turn of events demonstrably puts Selma at the head of the pack of would-be MLK biopics.

Those include Greengrass’ Memphis, a hotly contested picture that has drawn resistance from King’s living relatives for its commitment to veracity, as well as Stone’s untitled film, which had Jamie Foxx courted to play King himself before Stone dropped the project. Memphis hasn’t shown many signs of life lately, either; given its tumultuous history, in which it has been picked up, dropped, and picked up again within the span of three years. (Oprah’s Butler costar Forest Whitaker was, at one point, attached to star, too.) Stone’s movie seems to be officially dead, while Memphis could very easily be described as “troubled,” at best.

paul greengrass memphis martin luther king MLK Biopic Selma May Be Moving Forward; Oprah Producing

Selma has a very clear edge over all recent attempts at making a film about the civil rights icon Dr. King. Having the star power of Oprah certainly has its advantages, after all, and DuVernay seems to have given the film stability that it previously lacked; no wonder Paramount has so suddenly jumped on the opportunity to tack down distribution rights.

Of course, none of this says anything about the content of the screenplay, or what the cast will end up looking like; maybe David Oyelowo, one of Winfrey’s The Butler co-stars, will come back into the fold to portray King, as originally slated. It’s certainly in the realm of possibility that Oprah will appear in front of the camera in some capacity or another, too, but that’s purely speculative.

For now, the real takeaway here is that Oprah has almost single-handedly spurred forward movement on one of the many MLK films lingering in development limbo. We’ll see if she and DuVernay have an interesting angle on King’s legacy in due time.


Screen Rant will keep you updated on further developments with Selma as they occur.

Source: Deadline

Follow Andy Crump on Twitter @agracru
TAGS: Selma
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  1. Oh gosh!! The only reason I’d watch is if it said “Directed By: Steven Spielberg”. I don’t need to see another one of Oprah’s Oscar-bait movies. In my opinion the great man deserves better.

  2. If it’s a warts and all bio pic, it may be worthwhile. Otherwise, if it’s just going to be a “walked on water” depiction of MLK, I’ll pass.

    • I know Greengrass had a “warts and all” picture in mind, which I suspect is why it’s encountered so much opposition in the developmental stages.

  3. Good call getting Oprah involved, she can shepard the film through development.

    On another note, it would be interesting to see smaller stories about unknown or largely unknown people involved in the Civil Rights movements. Two stories that converge seems like an interesting way to go. A day in the life of two people involved, perhaps on opposing sides. Could be interesting.

    That said, it about time MLK had a big budget bio.

  4. I really think that it’s criminal that it’s 2014 and we have yet to see a proper adaptation of Dr. King’s story. He was and still is one of the most important figures in this country’s history. That’s an undeniable fact.

    IMO though his story cannot be properly told in a 2 1/2 to 3 hour movie. This has HBO mini-series written all over it. Produce a 4-5 episode series with each segment focusing on different periods or events of his life.
    I just think it’s impossible to make 1 feature and have it be both a proper telling of his story and a great movie.


    • @Trainer,

      Ironically, you are a poster boy for promoting the movie, giving reasons just why the movie needs to be seen. Your hateful ranting, ignorant, misinformed, uneducated, and misplaced shouting says it all.

      Thank you.