With Lee Daniels tackling a large swath of American history and racial politics in one fell swoop with his upcoming “The Butler“-or-insert-new-title-here, perhaps he already scratched his Civil Rights itch. In fact, back in 2010, he had already said he wasn’t keen on doing two movies about the same subject back-to-back. If you remember, he was once slated to direct the Martin Luther King drama “Selma,” and it was oh so promising. Had it come together, the historical drama would’ve looked something like this: David Oyelowo playing Martin Luther King, Hugh Jackman signed up as Sheriff Jim Clark, Liam Neeson portraying Lyndon Johnson; Robert De Niro attached to star as racist governor George Wallace; Cedric The Entertainer was set to play minister and activist Ralph Abernathy while Lenny Kravitz was also on board as activist Andrew Young. Well, financing didn’t arrive and it all fell apart but the project is now mounting again with a new face leading the way.
Deadline reports that Ava DuVernay has taken over directorial duties on “Selma” from Daniels. But who exactly is DuVernay? She’s the director behind last year’s Sundance hit “Middle Of Nowhere,” which found her becoming the first black woman to win Best Director at the festival. And it seems the buzz—which included the helmer landing on our On The Rise: 12 Directors To Watch In 2013—has coalesced in her getting her this gig, which is pretty great step up for the filmmaker.
Even better, Oyelowo (who featured in “Middle Of Nowhere”) is still on board to play MLK, with the movie centering on the famous Selma-to-Montgomery marches in 1965 to help get voting rights for African Americans listed in the Constitution. And given the Supreme Court’s recent depressing decision to strike down some parts of the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act, a movie about the events that were crucial in shifting public opinion on civil rights overall, seems even more pressing.
No word yet on when this will shoot, but producers are eager to get it moving, hoping to beat the small handful of rival MLK movies including Paul Greengrass‘ “Memphis” which has Forest Whitaker set to star (itself a project that fell apart and came back together). Hopefully there will be more news to come soon.