A worthwhile flashback on a slow news day…
Paul Robeson would’ve been 116 years old this year, if he were still alive (April 9, 1898, is his birthday).
With all the talk of an N.W.A, Tupac, Aaliyah, and other biopics of black public figures, I’d say that a Paul Robeson biopic is long overdue, given the man and his accomplishments. And one just might be coming to a theater near you soon, starring co-star of Showtime’s hit drama series “Homeland,” British actor David Harewood, as Robeson and Sydney Tamiia Poitier (daughter of Sidney Poitier) as Paul Robeson’s wife, Eslanda (“Essie”) Goode Robeson.
First announced a year ago, South African director Darrell Roodt (“Winnie”) is attached to helm what was shaping up to be a multi-continental production, both in front of and behind the camera.
The project comes from Four Stars International, and is to be produced by Greg Carter, and executive produced by Richard Akel, with a script penned by Akel and Terry Bisson, with promises of a film that’s worthy of its subject.
Also of note, Louis Gossett Jr. was to portray W.E.B. Du Bois in the independently-produced film.
The film will be a traditional biopic, showing Robeson’s rise (along with his wife, who was also his business manager) into his 60s. He died at age 77 in 1976.
The goal was to shoot the film last August, in Toronto and Montreal; but it doesn’t appear that photography has actually happened yet.
Depending on when the film is released, assuming it’s high-profile enough, it could very well be a film that will find itself in Awards season conversations, for whatever that year is.
I wonder who’ll play Oscar Micheaux, since Robeson made his film acting debut in Micheaux’s “Body and Soul” (1925).
Given the long life that he lived, the events he lived through, the other historically-significant public figures he knew, interacted and worked with, his on-screen and off-screen accomplishments, his activism that would lead to his black-listing, and so much more, there’s a lot of great history here in this one, single life. And a big screen account of that life is one that’s definitely warranted.
We’re definitely excited to see what develops here, although it’s not clear whether the film is indeed still alive. So, stay tuned…
In the meantime, one of my favorite clips of the renaissance man; 1959, talking Shakespeare (he portrayed Othello early in his career – 1943). It’s a rare treat to find footage of Paul Robeson as Paul Robeson.