A name that may not be getting as much credit and publicity for his contributions to Steve McQueen’s universally-lauded (so far) 12 Years A Slave, is the man who wrote the script. After all, as any filmmaker or producer worth their salt will tell you, it all starts on the page.
And not only did he pen the screenplay adaptation for 12 Years A Slave, which is premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival, he also wrote the script for and directed another film making its debut at Toronto – the Jimi Hendrix biopic starring Andre Benjamin, All Is By My Side.
I’m referring to John Ridley.
It might not immediately register that the same scribe who wrote the screenplay for the action-comedy Undercover Brother, would also be responsible for the script of an austere film about slavery – one that some are calling THE definitive film on the subject, compared to those that precede it.
But then again, you also may not immediately believe that John Sayles was responsible for scripts for creature-feature movies like Alligator and Piranha.
It’s called versatility, I suppose.
A hat-tip to Mr Ridley (who also penned Spike Lee’s HBO series Da Brick, which never made it to air, as well as George Clooney’s Persian Gulf War drama Three Kings) for his immense contributions to a film that’s currently the talk of the town, and at the top of every prognosticator’s Oscar contender’s list, and for another film that will premiere at TIFF shortly. I’m looking to reading reactions to that one as well.
In the meantime, you should know that Ridley is currently developing a film based on the 1992 Los Angeles riots, with Ron Howard’s and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment.
Justin Lin (director of 4 Fast & Furious movies) is attached to direct what was a “Black List” script that Ridley wrote on spec and sold in 2007, and has been trying to get financed since then. Although he continues to work on rewrites, anxious to move the project into production finally, given the timeliness of the subject matter, in light of recent events, telling Variety that, “I feel like we’ve got to make this happen now. People often think that it was limited to Rodney King and Reginald Denny, but there are so many other interconnected stories.”
He goes on further to say: “It was a systemic meltdown… The city and how it functions is the primary character of the film.”
Essentially, instead of focusing entirely on the 1992 riots, Ridley’s script is much more expansive and broader in scope, focusing on race while also going beyond race, and tackling all the hot-button issues of the period, that would eventually culminate in the riots.
I recall reading a report years ago stating that the film will follow the lives of everyday Los Angeles natives, and the story will unfold via their respective POVs.
It sounds like it could be a Traffic-esque treatment of the riots, providing varying points of view, probably before, during and after.
I should note that this is a project that Spike Lee was previously attached to direct, from Ridley’s script.