“It’s a moment in time in Martin Luther King and LBJ’s (life) around the signing of the Civil Rights. It’s a snapshot of the march. It’s really Lyndon Johnson’s story. Martin Luther King is a part of it, but it’s really the arc of a man that starts out as a racist who is forced to look at himself in the mirror and then ultimately side with King. It’s really a journey of a white cat and how he sneers at tradition and against George Wallace, against everybody, says, ‘Uh-uh.'”
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.
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.
Last we checked, the project was being shopped around to distributors in Hollywood. No word on whether it’s still alive.
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 was 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.
There are 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. With producers of Selma seemingly anxious to get it in front of audiences, this (DuVernay’s) just might be the first one at the finish line.
An obvious next question is whether DP extraordinaire Bradford Young will be brought along for the ride.
Also, keep in mind that Brad Pitt’s Plan B production company is behind Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave as well