R&B star Ne-Yo revealed in an interview with the British paper the Sunday Mirror that he was offered the opportunity to play Martin Luther King, Jr. in a new film, but he turned down the role because the film’s producers asked him to gain 30 pounds for the role, and he wanted to focus on his music with a new album on the way.
“I definitely want to do more acting but it’s got to make sense with the music. I recently had to turn down an amazing opportunity to be in a movie playing Martin Luther King. They wanted to start shooting at the time my album R.E.D. comes out and wanted me to gain 30 pounds, so I couldn’t do it. I’m kicking myself but acting can’t take the place of my music. Plus, I’ve been killing myself in the gym for months preparing for this album because I wanted a complete makeover.”
So of course, inquiring minds want to know what movie this is in which a role for Martin Luther King, Jr. exists that’s shooting soon.
As far as I know, there have been at least 5 film projects in the works based on either the life of MLK, or some significant period during his 39 years on this planet; most recently announced, the Paul Greengrass-directed MLK assassination pic, Memphis, which was once a sure-thing, but the studio backing it, Universal Pictures, later backed out of financing and distributing the film; word on the street was that pressure from the MLK estate (and Andrew Young’s objections) to call off the project, because they were unhappy with the script, was one of the reasons.
The film, which was supposed to focus on the events leading up to King’s assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, while he was trying to organize the city’s sanitation workers in spring of 1968, was to begin shooting last summer, for an early 2012 release. Obviously, that didn’t happen.
The other MLK projects in the works include, of course, Lee Daniels’ Selma (currently in limbo, due to financing issues, as well as the very same reasons Greengrass’ project has stalled – the King estate being unhappy with the script, and Andrew Young’s objections); then there’s Oprah’s HBO miniseries (should be a go, expected in 2012), the Steven Spielberg/DreamWorks project that has the backing of King’s estate (likely will also push forward; after all it’s Spielberg and Dreamworks), and Wesley Snipes’ planned exploration of J. Edgar Hoover’s campaign to discredit MLK, and the fallout that followed, titled Code Name Zorro (he’s still in prison, right? So, I wouldn’t be looking for this one anytime soon).
So I’d say none of those is the project Ne-yo was offered a part in as MLK. And then it hit me – Lee Daniels is almost about to start shooting The Butler which stars Forest Whitaker, and an all-star cast of actors playing bit parts in the film – essentially cameos of noted historic figures who passed through the life of title character while he served as the White House butler under numerous presidents, over several decades; and one of those notable historic figures I know is represented in the film is Martin Luther King, Jr.
And as far as I know, there hasn’t been an announcement naming the actor who will play that part. And given that Ne-Yo says the film is to begin production around the time his next album will be released (in September) I can only assume that it’s probably Lee Daniels’ The Butler, which is finalizing is cast, but I don’t believe has actually begun shooting yet. Or even if it has, it could very well be that the scenes with MLK may have been shot in another month or 2, which would interfer with Ne-Yo’s press schedule to push the release of his new album, before its actual release and after.
But who knows; there very well could be another MLK project, or a project with MLK in it that we don’t yet know about.
It doesn’t matter however, because he turned down the part, which is interesting to me. It’s not often that actors are given a opportunity to play such an iconic figure.