Ava DuVernay

Finally, one of a handful of Martin Luther King Jr projects that we’ve been tracking for years now, inches closer to becoming a reality, separating itself from the pack.

It all started last month, with Oprah Winfrey coming on board to act as a producer on Ava DuVernay’s MLK pic, Selma, which David Oyelowo is attached to star in. 

Announced this week, the project gets a major lift thanks to a Hollywood studio in Paramount, negotiating to acquire domestic distribution rights to the film, with the goal being to launch production as soon as possible.

DuVernay took over directing duties of the film from Lee Daniels, who had long been attached to helm, but faced a financing wall (among other hurdles), and moved on to other projects.
Winfrey joins the Pathe UK-backed project, which already boasts Brad Pitt’s Plan B and Christian Colson (who won an Oscar for producing Slumdog Millionaire) as producers. Talk about a quad of heavies behind the project.


The feature drama centers on the 1965 landmark voting rights campaign regarded as the peak of the civil rights movement. 
So it’s not specifically an MLK biopic, as other MLK projects in development we know of, are.
It’s worth noting that Oprah also has an HBO miniseries on MLK in the works, announced a few years ago. No word on what the status of that project is, given her attachment to DuVernay’s Selma.
The other key MLK project we know of is Paul Greengrass’ Memphis, which we learned, most recently, Forest Whitaker will star in.

Oliver Stone’s project, which was to star Jamie Foxx, is dead. 

In addition to Oyelowo, the cast of Daniels’ original Selma (before DuVernay took over) also included Lenny Kravitz (as civil rights activist Andrew Young), Cedric The Entertainer (as Ralph Abernathy), Hugh Jackman (as racist Selma sheriff Jim Clark), and Liam Neeson (as President Lyndon Baines Johnson). 
No word yet on whether any of them is still attached or even interested.
I should also note, in closing, that it was in 2012 when Lee Daniels, apparently unable to get Selma off the ground, announced that he was teaming with Hugh Jackman (who was also attached to Selma), to take on Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, in a new film that would reportedly explore an “unconventional view of King’s murder.

To be titled Orders To Kill, the film was to tell an alternative version of the MLK shooting, with Daniels directing of course, and Jackman starring. It would be based on William Pepper’s book of the same name, which had already been adapted to screenplay format, and was apparently ready to be shot, with Millennium Films producing and finance the film.

Last we checked, over a year ago, the project was being shopped around to distributors in Hollywood. But no word on whether it’s still alive. Likely not.

For years, films about the Civil Rights Leader and icon have stalled, with disapproval of content (specifically depictions of MLK in each script) by influential voices (Andrew Young and the King Estate notably) being a primary hurdle. 

It however looks like Selma is on its way to becoming a reality, finally, especially with Oprah, and now Paramount, jumping on board.

This will mark DuVernay’s first big budget (relative to the budgets for the indie features she’s previously directed) Hollywood studio picture.