Paul Greengrass Eying MLK Assassination Pic, ‘Memphis’

Published 3 years ago by

Paul Greengrass looks to direct Memphis Paul Greengrass Eying MLK Assassination Pic, Memphis

Last week Paul Greengrass was a rumored candidate to direct the 3D Cleopatra movie starring Angelina Jolie. Now it appears that the Jason Bourne franchise helmer will turn his attention to a political thriller that’s arguably much more up his alley – Memphis, a pic about the assassination of iconic civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.

Greengrass wrote the script for Memphis based off his own personal research and has approached both Focus Features as well as Oscar-winning producer Scott Rudin (No Country For Old Men) about making the project his next directorial effort.

Memphis will examine the period of King’s life just prior to his murder on April 4th, 1968 in the titular Tennessee city. As Vulture points out, that was an especially tumultuous time for the revered activist as his personal life was a mess (King’s marriage was falling apart, which contributed to his chain-smoking and heavy drinking); he’d parted ways with President Lyndon Johnson due to his outspoken disapproval of the Vietnam War; and King’s approach had diminished in popularity following the rise of the Black Power movement in the late 60s.

Best known for his handicam cinematography and gritty style, Greengrass began his filmmaking career in the documentary field long before he broke onto the Hollywood scene with his sequel, The Bourne Supremacy. Since then, the English auteur has shown a knack for handling rugged action thrillers with strong political overtones, as evidenced in both of his Jason Bourne outings, as well as the 9/11 docudrama United 93 and the Iraq Invasion pic Green Zone. Hence why a project like Memphis seems a natural fit for Greengrass to tackle.

Martin Luther King Jr. movie in the works Paul Greengrass Eying MLK Assassination Pic, Memphis

A Martin Luther King Jr. biopic began development a few years back, but progress on the project has been stalled for a while now. A film like Memphis, which narrows its gaze to only a specific portion of the historical figure’s life, would not only have an easier time getting off the ground but also has the potential to be far less convention-bound than the average Hollywood biopic. For every acclaimed film that chronicles the life of a famous individual (to cite an appropriate example, Spike Lee’s Malcolm X), there seems to be several that fall into the trap of recounting the “important events” in their subject’s life without offering much insight about their personal motivation, feelings, thoughts, etc.

Memphis sounds like it’ll be more of a character study rather than a broad recreation of King’s life, which would allow Greengrass to explore the man’s personality with a fair amount of depth. Add to that the thriller aspects of the story – since King’s life was in a constant state of danger long before he was actually murdered – and the project seems to have the potential to be both very moving and viscerally engaging.

Expect to hear more about the development of Memphis in the near future.

Source: Vulture

TAGS: memphis

9 Comments

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  1. And cue the people dementedly screaming that this is somehow an insult because only an african-american should be allowed to direct this in 3…..2…..1…..

    • As an African-American, I would say that the better concern would be reaction to how King is depicted in the film. Greengrass’seems to want to get at the reality of who King was as a man and his mindstate during those last days of his life. I think people react to the depiction of King as a less-than-perfect man first, and then by extension the man (Greengrass) who is depicting him that way.

      That’s just MY guess.

      • I think the fact that MLK was a flawed human being makes what he accomplished all the more powerful. I think it’s sad that people try to gloss over reality when it comes to their heroes.

        • As long we’re talking humans and heroes, there’s always going to be romanticizing of people’s idols, mentors, heroes, etc. And there’s always going to be the defenses of heroes by those who believe in them against those who work to vilify the heroes.
          I’m in agreement with you that portraying a historical figure as close to reality as possible is usually better. I like such honesty because a cookie-cutout persona is too soaked up in Hollywood artifice and cliches.
          I like reading and studying history, and “heroes” are made more interesting when we see what’s both good and bad about them — see them at their best and see their foibles, which add character.

    • Looks like someone got that wrong. I think we’ve come of an age where race, as it regards to Directors and material, is irrelevant in film. From a young Jewish director named Spielberg getting to direct The Color Purple to Paul Haggis, who is as white as they come, directing an incredible multi-cultural and multi-racial based film in Crash.

      I, myself, am multi-racial. I have a black father and white mother so I see both sides of the coin. I honestly don’t believe that the kind of people who would have a problem with a white man directing a movie about a black activist are true lovers of film. They either haven’t seen these films or other good movies like Mississippi Burning or Ghost’s of Mississippi, or they aren’t smart enough to realize all four were directed by white men.

  2. Greengrass needs to make this movie similar to “United 93,” which, for the most part, just tried to stick to the details, with very little romanticizing.
    Most biopics have the support of the families of the subjects so they usually end up being watered down, and too sugary for their own good. Or, they’ll be made without the family’s OK and thus focus more on scandal, sex and drugs.
    It does sound like Greengrass is just going to detail the last few weeks or months of his life, a snapshot of the period and what was going on. I’d rather that’s the case because most directors would either make King a saint or vilify him, or steer clear of both extremes and make him safely bland.

  3. This seems very intriguing to me, Greengrass is a great director. How he is approaching the story sounds similar in some ways to his first big hit BLOODY SUNDAY which was about the British troop massacre of Irish Peace activists (who were using MLK and the African American Civil Rights movement as a model). I can see him doing an amazing job with the Memphis Garbage strike which drew King’s support in the first place. It will be interesting to see if Lee Daniels’ SELMA film will also be able to get off the ground at the same time.

    BTW, please check out http://www.fearofablackrepublican.com, the website for a documentary called “Fear of a Black Republican.” It looks at why there aren’t more Black Republicans and what this means for the Two-Party System.

    The trailer has Michael Steele, Cornel West, Lynn Swann, Tavis Smiley, Chistie Whitman, Maxine Waters, Ken Mehlman and Edward Brooke in it. Trailer runs about 3 minutes.

    Thanks.

  4. I’ve got one thing to say. This film was the reason that the awesomeness that is Jefferey Wright was born. If anyone else is chosen for the role it’ll be a sad day in Movie Making Heaven.

  5. Many of you wont like me for this but I believe movies like this only lengthen the racial issues in America. Im not saying we forget what happened in our past, but we will never get past race if we keep bringing up racial times and trying to profit from them.

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