An excerpt from a day-old article I came across on Peoria, IL’s PJStar news website, on the upcoming Richard Pryor feature documentary, that I’m only just now learning, thanks to the article, is being directed by Marina Zenovich (known mostly for directing the multiple award-winning 2008 documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired).
Apparently, part of the film is currently being shot in Peoria, and the reporter who penned the piece got to speak to the producer of the film, who also happens to be Richard Pryor’s widow, Jennifer Lee Pryor, and via that conversation, learned a few things about the upcoming documentary feature.
“It’s a definitive documentary,” says the last of Pryor’s five wives, two of whom (including Jennifer Lee Pryor) he wed twice. “It’s authorized by the estate. I’ve never cooperated with any of the others.” She [director Marina Zenovich] was given access to estate photos and other materials, and many of Pryor’s friends and family opened up for the project. The documentary traces his roots here [Peoria, IL], though without any locals on camera… the project focuses on Pryor’s transformation from successful but mild stand-up comedian to successful but dangerous social critic. The turning point happens in Las Vegas, where Pryor no longer feels comfortable in his own skin, for taking the safe route of punch-line comedy while leaving his past buried. “He just really got to see what the world was about,” says Jennifer Lee Pryor. “He was making good money. It was a case of learning from an answered prayer: ‘I got what I wanted. But what is it? Who am I?'” Pryor answered that last question with brutal honesty in his new brand of no holds barred stage humor. It rocketed him to superstardom, before the fire and fall. At that point, as therapy for his suicide attempt, he began writing a journal, which he kept private. The journal was used in the documentary, for the first time ever. “I think it allows insight,” his widow says, without offering specifics, for now. “I think it’s definitely meant to show publicly. There’s private stuff in there. But Richard was a very public person.”
All interesting, I thought – especially the part about his private journal, which he kept as therapy for his suicide attempt, now being made public.
So this sounds like it could be a warts and all kind of film – one that gives us much more insight into the man and his life, than any previous work, in part because of the cooperation of the Pryor estate, giving the award-winning director of a film about another controversial public figure, what sounds like unprecendented access to Pryors life, via various types of media, as well as his family and friends, who the piece says, “opened up for the project.”
The completed film, which will be titled Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic, will be broadcast on Showtime as part of a new documentary series showcase titled Closeup, which will give measured and complex looks at the lives of several notable public figures, with Richard Pryor being among the first to be “provocatively studied,” as Showtime describes it.
At the time of the initial announcement of the project, it was said that details were still being worked out with Pryor’s family, but they were making progress. Evidently, the network reached a deal with the estate that was mutually attractive, since the film is currently in production.
I wonder if Showtime plans to release the film, and others in the series, in theaters before or after their Showtime TV premieres…
Look for it in 2013.