With a long awards season on the horizon, Oscar winner Forest Whitaker may be adding another prestige project to his plate, as he's in talks to play Martin Luther King Jr. in writer-director Paul Greengrass' drama "Memphis," an individual familiar with the long-gestating project has told TheWrap.
Now that Abu Dhabi-based Veritas Films and French financier Wild Bunch have agreed to back Greengrass' passion project, it looks like it will be the filmmaker's next movie. An individual familiar with "Memphis" tells TheWrap that Greengrass intends to shoot the movie in a "docu-style" manner similar to how he filmed "United 93."
"Memphis" was originally set up at Universal with Scott Rudin producing, but the project never came together due to several factors including financing and scheduling. Greengrass and Rudin moved on to Sony's Somali pirate drama "Captain Phillips" before they decided to make "Memphis" as an indie movie.
Story follows Dr. King's final days as he struggles to balance his personal life and the civil rights movement while he organizes what ends up being his last protest march in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was assassinated by James Earl Ray. Simultaneously, the FBI, which had been wiretapping King before his death, leads an intense manhunt for his killer.
King's family is developing their own project at DreamWorks and along with his close confidante Andrew Young, they have objected to Greengrass' intended warts-and-all portrayal of King.
Script finds Dr. King depressed about the state of both his marriage and that of war-ravaged and socially-divided America, as well the fear of being marginalized by a new generation of younger black leaders.
Whitaker, who won an Oscar for "The Last King of Scotland," next stars in Lee Daniels' drama "The Butler," which the Weinstein Company will release on August 16. TWC is also behind the Whitaker-produced "Fruitvale Station," which has earned rave reviews at both Sundance and Cannes in advance of its July 12 opening. He also co-stars alongside Christian Bale and Casey Affleck in Scott Cooper's gritty drama "Out of the Furnace," which Relativity will debut on October 4.
Whitaker is repped by WME, Brillstein Entertainment Partners and Ziffren, Brittenham.