Steven Spielberg Producing Martin Luther King Jr. Biopic

Published 5 years ago by , Updated August 22nd, 2013 at 4:34 pm,

Martin Luther King Jr. should, and does get talked about in the same way as people like Gandhi, Malcolm X and Nelson Mandela. He’s a legendary figure, still remembered with fondness and admiration 41 years after his shocking assassination back in 1968. Following in the footsteps of the upcoming Frank Sinatra biopic, Hollywood is making a biopic about Martin Luther King Jr., with none other than Steven Spielberg attached to produce.

This is the first time permission has been given by King’s estate to make a movie about him. Universal and producers Spielberg, Suzanne de Passe and Madison Jones, obtained the rights to use the material, from King’s books to his famous I Have A Dream speech. Apparently, this King biopic has been a long-time dream for Spielberg, along with Dreamworks CEO and co-chairman Stacey Snider, who both aim to make “the definitive portrait” of King’s life.

Spielberg had this to say:

“We are all honored that the King Estate is giving us the opportunity to tell the story of these defining, historic events… It is our hope that the creative power of film and the impact of Dr. King’s life can combine to present a story of undeniable power that we can all be proud of.”

Co-producer Madison Jones has been involved with managing and developing many projects related to King, including King: Montgomery to Memphis, and, Assassinated: Bobby Kennedy & Martin Luther King, Jr., both made for TV. Although those are just a couple of examples of documentaries and dramatizations, this biopic will mark the first feature film that’s been made about the influential Civil Rights figure.

Madison said:

“In trying to tackle such an ambitious project, the question we had to ask ourselves is, ‘Why now?’… The answer lies in MLK’s own words: ‘All progress is precarious.’ With every step forward, new obstacles emerge and we must never forget that his life and his teachings continue to challenge us every day to stand up to hatred and inequality.”

There’s no word on what form the film will take – for example, will it span King’s whole life or just his career? – but if they’re aiming to give “the definitive portrait” of his life then they need to tell us everything they can within the space of a movie’s runtime (will it be three-plus hours like the Malcolm X and Gandhi biopics were?), but at the same time not make it feel “baggy.” They have to strike the right balance between what is important to get across, and what will make for an effective and powerful movie without it dragging or feeling drawn out in any way.

They can’t just put everything in there and hope it will just work itself out – they need to get it just right. The man deserves that, does he not?

As for who should play King, I would say Denzel Washington but with him having already played a similarly influential and important figure in Malcolm X, I don’t think he should be the one to also play this man. Just to throw a name out there…perhaps Will Smith? I realize he already played a notable figure in the form of Muhammed Ali, and he’s maybe a little too good looking (bet that’s never held him back before…), but there’s just something about Smith that makes me think he’d do a good job with the role.

With Spielberg being one of the players behind this biopic, I can’t really see it being not worthwhile. I mean, King’s story is one that definitely needs to be told, and if they can find a way to do his real life story justice in a movie, I can’t see a reason not to make it.

What is your opinion on a Martin Luther King Jr. biopic? Who do you think should play King?

Source: Variety

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  1. I heard about this on the news today and I think its a brilliant idea….can’t wait to hear more on this.

  2. What is the next film we know Spielberg is going to direct?

  3. @Gary,

    Spielberg’s next directed movie is Tintin, then he has two movies coming up after than in 2011: An Abraham Lincoln biopic and a sci-fi movie called Interstellar (which is written by Jonathan Nolan, brother of Christopher).

  4. I’m not sure how I feel about this with Spielberg not keeping up to par with his early work but we shall see.

  5. Should be interesting. MLK deserves a biopic more so than that domestic terrorist Malcolm X which I believe did more to set black people back than help them…

  6. hmmmm,,,?

    Is this entertainment?

  7. Didn’t MLKJr have an affair before he git into black rights? Something my teacher told me years ago and I always wondered, not that I’ll expect to see it in the film.

  8. @EnglishGavz
    Yes he did, but like the estate of Frank Sinatra, they may not want him to expose that information. As much as I admire MLK, he was just a man and prone to human error.

    @Ken J
    Malcomb X did start his career with the Nation of Islam as a radical but after his visit to Mecca and seeing that it just wasn’t people of color that believed in Allah, he had a change of heart. One of the conspiracy theories that I personally believe in was that Elijah Muhammad had him assassinated because X wanted to preach peace for all races.

    @Ross
    Wonderful article. I believe Denzel could do a wonderful job but I too wonder if people can separate seeing Malcomb X while he’s playing King. The same goes for Smith.

    I hold MLK as the greatest Afro-American, even higher than Frederick Douglas. His efforts for racial equality brought about a change that led to the election of the first Afro-American President. While I may not agree with many of Obama’s policies, I am estatic that this historic event happened. I pray for the day that “people will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I still have a dream today”.

  9. I’m really impressed by the chameleon that Jamie Foxx has become. I mean, he WAS Ray Charles. He is an amazing actor, and one that I would love to see play MLK.

  10. Great news of a long overdue addition to the Martin Luther King Jr. history. Those interested in this may also be interested in the film project about my investigation of MLK’s murder.

    “They Slew the Dreamer”, but the dream lives on.

    http://www.garyrevel.com/mlk

  11. @EnglishGavz

    Yes, he had an affair, along with 70% of the men in the world… I’m not condoning it, I personally hate people like that and do not like to befriend guys like that, but it’s just another one of the world’s sad truths… Not that women are all pure and honest either, but MLK is a man, so that’s what I’m talking about now, lol.

    @ Kahless

    Ah, I guess, but still, if Yasser Arafat would have had a “change of heart” before he died, I still would have wanted him dead, lol.

  12. Do u think there is an acting job for an 11 year old? In the move about martin luther king jr. .

  13. Maybe they will have a segment about young martin luther king jr??

  14. I think making a movie about such an inspirational man is the perfect way to celebrate his acheivements and add to his legacy.
    Morgan Freeman would have been the ideal candidate to play the role of King…Denzel did an outstanding job in acting as Malcolm X…perhaps he can tackle this too….

  15. Morgan Freeman is a TAD old to play MLK Jr…

  16. I cannot wait to see this film. I think Jeffrey Wright is a great choice to play Dr. King.

    Malcolm X was not a domestic terrorist. He was a great civil rights leader who took time to grow and mature into that role as a leader. Just as the person above will have to mature to realize the good that this man did.

    All of our civil rights leaders are important, Ghandi, Dr. King, Malcolm X, Barack Obama, the brave Iranians fighting for their rights in Iran……..all of them!

  17. I cannot wait to see this film. I think Jeffrey Wright is a great choice to play Dr. King.

    Malcolm X was not a domestic terrorist. He was a great civil rights leader who took time to grow and mature into that role as a leader. Just as the person above will have to mature to realize the good that this man did.

    All of our civil rights leaders are important, Ghandi, Dr. King, Malcolm X, Barack Obama, the brave Iranians fighting for their rights in Iran……..all of them!

  18. Barack Obama is a civil rights leader? Why, because he’s our first black president? He’s a politician like the rest of the snakes… He didn’t campaign for any greater cause, he campaigned to get himself into power like all of the other candidates were trying to do. No wonder everyone gets these titles so easily…

  19. Terence Howard is the best man to play King. He’s got the same round face, fiery eyes, and distinctive voice.

  20. I think it is wonderful!!!! I am a singersongwriter I have written a song about Dr. King,my song is entitled “Dream Tha Dream” by Mr.C it highlights the values that Dr. King stood for,love for fellowman,personal and spiritual growth.I have been granted licensing rights to use Dr. King’s audio from his I Have A Dream speech, by King’s Estate in Atlanta. My song is available @ songcastmusic.com “Dream Tha Dream” by Mr.C I hope that u enjoy it!!!!Thank you Steven Spielburg and the King family and much success on your movie!!Let’s all Dream Tha Dream and make it come true!!!!!!

    Thank you for this time!

    Charles Lattimore Mr.C

  21. Stephon Ferguson @ TheDreamLives.com

  22. Dwayne Adway would be a great Dr King…He was Dennis Rodman in bad as I wanna be.He has a unique look .This could be his Oscar role..

  23. Why are they getting actors who are 6 feet and taller to play a guy who was only 5’6 in real life? There are plenty of short actors. Why not cast them?

  24. I just returned today from Atlanta where I visited yesterday the Reverend Dr. martin Luther King jr. National Historic Site. I was deeply moved to say the least. I am now back in the city of São Pualo where I currently live. I am working on the release of my documentary “Frei Galvão, the Architect of Light”.

    I would like to know if the project of a feature on Dr. King’s life has progressed and who has the rights for a feature biopic. I would very much like to collaborate in the making of this film.

    My e-mail is malcolmforest@gmail.com.

    Peace and Good,

    Malcolm