This is interesting… So Lee Daniels apparently couldn’t get his original MLK project off the ground (titled Selma, which had David Oyelowo starring), and has switched gears, still staying on the MLK course, but this time teaming with Hugh Jackman (who was also attached to Selma), to take on Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in a new film that will reportedly explore an “unconventional view of King’s murder.”
To be titled Orders To Kill, the film will tell an alternative version of the MLK shooting, according to the LA Times, with Daniels directing of course, and Jackman starring.
The film will tell the story of William Pepper (Jackman), a controversial attorney and activist who for decades has argued that convicted killer James Earl Ray, who recanted his confession and died arguing his innocence, didn’t shoot MLK. The picture will follow Pepper over the years as he wages a one-man campaign, interviewing witnesses and building support for his theory that other interests, including those from the U.S. government, were behind the 1968 Memphis killing. (In a nutshell, Pepper, who is still alive, argues that government interests wanted King dead because of his opposition to the Vietnam War.)
The film will be based on William Pepper’s book of the same name, which has already been adapted to screenplay format, and is apparently ready to be shot, with Millennium Films producing and finance the film, which is currently being shopped around to distributors in Hollywood.
Unlike Daniels’ Selma (which was reportedly held up because family and close friends of the King estate didn’t approve of the project, which would have highlighted some of King’s vices), this project is said to have the support of Martin Luther King Jr.’s son Dexter King, who himself believes Pepper’s story about who was really behind his father’s murder.
A 1999 wrongful-death lawsuit against a man and unknown co-conspirators filed by the Kings and argued by Pepper found in favor of the plaintiff. The trial will be the climactic section of the film, according to the person familiar with the project.
Since Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, assassination, his murder has been fodder for endless conspiracy theories that rival those of JFK’s assassination (which Oliver Stone tackled in his film 2 decades ago).
From King’s son Dexter meeting with James Earl Ray in prison in 1997, professing his belief in Ray’s innocence, to then Attorney General Janet Reno’s reopening an investigation into the assassination in 1998, to a jury awarding the King family a symbolic $100 in a wrongful death suit a year later – all have helped keep alternate theories of MLK’s death alive.
James Earl Ray maintained his innocence until he died in prison in 1998.
Lee Daniels has his hands full here. I won’t be surprised if certain forces ensure that this project is never fully realized (to add to the already existing conspiracy theories).
But this could be a good one, depending on execution. Let’s see how things develop…