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.
“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?