In my item yesterday on news that Whoopi Goldberg intends to leave “The View” at the end of the 2016/2017 TV season, to focus on directing films, I mentioned that one of the upcoming projects on her to-do list is a film on Emmett Till; although, per our last report on the project about a year ago, she had signed on to executive produce only.
Thanks to yesterday’s post, I received an email from folks familiar with the project, informing me that Goldberg has now also signed up to direct the film, making it her narrative feature directorial debut. Recall she directed a documentary on Moms Mabley for HBO 2 years ago.
This Emmett Till film hails from Keith A. Beauchamp (the director of the 2005 documentary, “The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till”) and producer Frederick Zollo (“Mississippi Burning,” “Ghosts of Mississippi”), and will be based on Beauchamp’s documentary, as well as Simeon Wright’s “Simeon’s Story: An Eyewitness Account of the Kidnapping of Emmett Till.”
The film, to be titled simply “Till,” was the beneficiary of a 2014 Kickstarter campaign, which raised over $50,000 to jump-start the production process. Filming is now scheduled to begin next year in Mississippi, so we can assume that financing is in place, or will be sooner than later.
As for casting, Goldberg wants a relatively unknown actor to play Till, and has her eyes set on Markees Christmas, star of indie crowd-pleaser “Morris from America,” which was released this year.
The project joins other Emmett Till films or miniseries in the works: one from Chaz Ebert, which will be based on the book, “Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America,” co-written by Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley (who passed away in 2003), and journalist Christopher Benson. The second will be based on the play, “The Face of Emmett Till” (also co-written by Till’s mother along with David Barr III) from Skyland Pictures and FireRock Bay Pictures, which James Moll (“The Last Days”) is attached to direct, from a script penned by David Barr III and David Scott Hay, who are also co-producing. A third project is set up at HBO as a miniseries, from a producing team that includes Will Smith, Jay Z and Aaron Kaplan. Currently in active development, Steven Caple Jr. just signed up to pen the script for what has been described as “an immersive and in depth exploration of the Emmett Till story,” and is expected to be a 6-hour miniseries for HBO.
Which of these unmade Emmett Till projects will cross the finish line first? Your guess is as good as mine. Given the star power (Will Smith, Jay Z) and the premium cable TV network (HBO) behind the Steven Caple Jr-scripted series, it may have the smoothest path from thought to screen.
Last year marked the 60th anniversary of Till’s murder, which may be why there are several projects on his life in the works, all of them announced in the last 2 years.