Paul Greengrass’ Martin Luther King Flick ‘Memphis’ Back on Track

Published 2 years ago by

paul greengrass memphis martin luther king Paul Greengrass Martin Luther King Flick Memphis Back on Track

Both Martin Luther King Jr.’s living kin and the Civil Rights icon’s former confidante Andrew Young, are very protective of the man’s legacy – which is why biographical projects like Precious director Lee Daniels’ Selma and filmmaker Paul Greengrass’ (Bourne Ultimatum, United 93Memphis have fallen into Development Purgatory over the past couple years (due to objections from both Young and the King family about how the scripts portray the famous reverend).

However, just a few months ago, we learned that Daniels is moving forward with a different MLK flick titled Orders to Kill, with Hugh Jackman playing the attorney who investigated MLK’s assassination. Furthermore, reports are in that Greengrass’ Memphis is regaining momentum and looks to become his next directorial effort.

Greengrass and Oscar-winning producer Scott Rudin (No Country for Old Men, The Social Network) put Memphis on the back-burner after Universal backed out as financier and distributor – which Deadline partly attributed to pressure from the King estate – instead moving forward with Captain Phillips starring Tom Hanks (and based on the memoir A Captain’s Duty). Memphis is a terse dramatization of historical events (similar to United 93) and described as follows:

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.

Memphis is said to be a pretty accurate portrayal of these events, thanks to heavy research from Greengrass (whose screenplay is referred to by Deadline as “Oscar-caliber stuff”). However, Young has voiced his complaints about how the project handles subjects King’s infidelity – which is touched upon in the script, since King’s marriage (by that point) had become heavily-strained by the constant threats and dangers resulting from his socio-political activism.

Paul Greengrass looks to direct Memphis Paul Greengrass Martin Luther King Flick Memphis Back on Track

Veritas and Wild Bunch are currently in talks to fund Memphis, with the plan being for Greengrass and Rudin to make the project their next collaboration. It certainly reads as an excellent match for the director’s talent for propulsive storytelling and effective visceral style of action filmmaking, which best served the Bourne series and United 93; even Greengrass’ not-so-beloved politically-charged Matt Damon thriller, Green Zone, benefited from his involvement.

As Lincoln (read our review) illustrates, a biopic script that narrows its focus can be quite insightful about its subject – and makes their experiences relevant to our times – especially when married to the right auteur. Greengrass’ sensibilities make him a strong choice to bring King’s story to life in an intense (and emotion-draining) fashion for that reason. Here’s hoping Memphis doesn’t hit another major roadblock on its journey to the big screen (knock on wood).

More on Memphis as the story develops.

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Source: Deadline

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  1. MLK DID cheat on his wife and he DID plagarise his doctoral work. Why would anyone want to watch a biopic that deprives itself from historical truth (even harsh) to ccreate a movie about a statue rather than a human being.
    The movie would still be about his civil rights movement. I think that what really matters.

    • Because some people in the movie industry want universal (in America at least, the rest of the world doesn’t even know who the guy was, let alone care what he did in his life) praise and lots of dollars so they’d rather skewer portions of the truth to continue living up the man people think he was.

      Same way Hollywood made and released Braveheart but played up to the legend to say he was a hero who fought back against the English despite most of that movie not being based on fact or happening at different periods in time (for instance, the French wife of the English king was only 13 years old when Wallace was around and Longshanks died long after Wallace did I believe and not as he cried “Freedom” during his execution).

  2. I hope they show his asasination in full detail like the Malcom X movie.

  3. It wasn’t just J Edgar Hoover who tapped MLK’s phone conversations, it was also Bobby Kennedy whilst Attorney General in the early 1960′s because he (rightly) suspected communist influence in the civil rights movement… and let’s hope ‘Memphis’ states the fact that MLK was also a lifelong Republican!

    Paul Greengrass is undoubtedly a first-rate filmmaker, and I would love to see him take on an adaptation of the Steve Ditko-created ‘Hawk & Dove’ comic book; Greengrass’ politically-charged sensibilities would be perfect for a politically-charged CBM unlike any other before it!

    • I don’t think showing whether he was Democrat or Republican would be high on the list for this movie; his actual Civil Rights movement was beyond left or right. I do believe they should show that he was just a man, with human frailties (infidelity), but a man with a great vision for his people. As a black man, King is a role model matched only by the biblical patriarchs; no man, aside from my Lord and Savior, has touched my heart so much with his words. I sure hope they get this right.

  4. Shaky cam assassination or GTFO

  5. Honestly, I’d rather just see a movie about MLK’s life such as him growing up to becoming a famed Civil Rights hero instead of just his assassination.