Breaking: After getting shelved by Universal Pictures in April of last year, director Paul Greengrass’ would-be project about the final days of Martin Luther King Jr., “Memphis,” is back on again with producer Scott Rudin in tow. After Universal backed out last year, after reportedly getting cold feet about the MLK estate’s issues with the allegations of infidelity in the screenplay, the project had no funding and Greengrass turned his attention to “Captain Phillips,” his Somali pirates picture starring Tom Hanks set up over at Sony. Without funding, they essentially abandoned it.
But Deadline reports that Greengrass and Rudin intend to make it their next picture and says that Wild Bunch — the international sales group that helped finance and distribute Steven Soderbergh’s “Che,” Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” and highly anticipated upcoming projects like James Gray’s “The Nightingale” and Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Only God Forgives“– are on board to foot the bill.
Written by Greengrass, the historical drama centers on the final days of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the springtime of 1968, when he was trying to help the city’s sanitation workers find common ground. This was an extremely tumultuous time for King: he was facing heat from the President over his opposition to the Vietnam War while fighting marginalization due to his insistence on focusing his efforts on the poor working class. Memphis was also the place he would give his famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech just a day before he would be assassinated. Deadline adds that the story is also juxtaposed by an intense manhunt for King’s assassin by the same federal agents that followed King’s every step with wiretaps at the behest of J. Edgar Hoover. It would be interesting to see just how big or small a part MLK will play considering it sounds like he’s killed off in the first act.
The material sounds Oscar-caliber to say the least. And in any year of release it would be — in this form at least, with Greengrass at the helm — a fiercely anticipated picture. Fingers cross that everything works out.