Pretty much everyone (besides Academy voters) recognized David Oyelowo’s terrific performance as Martin Luther King Jr. in Ava DuVernay’s “Selma,” and while the Civil Rights leader will inevitably be played again on the big screen someday, at the moment, it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role. And maybe that’s why Oyelowo’s phone is still ringing about his turn as MLK.
Chatting with Esquire, the actor reveals he’s still being asked by some pretty big people if he’ll take on MLK again. “I was at an event for AFI during award season and Steven Spielberg—who famously has been interested in making his own Martin Luther King film—came up to me and said, ‘My goodness, David, that’s one of the best things I have ever seen. You really inspired me to take another look at my Dr. King film.’ And then he goes, ‘You would reprise the role, right? You would do it again?’ My stomach all but fell out of my body,” he said. “I was just like, ‘Oh, my lord.’ That was quite a mountain to climb. Not only did idea of being asked to do it again give me pause, but here he is, Steven Spielberg of all people, [asking] if I entertain doing it again.”
Back in 2009, DreamWorks acquired the life rights to Martin Luther King Jr. for a biopic, with Spielberg among those that would produce the picture. And unlike “Selma,” this project would have the rights to Martin Luther King Jr.’s actual speeches, which are held by his estate. But Oyelowo isn’t rushing any decisions, because he has more than one offer on the table.
“I don’t know. I really don’t know. I’ve already been asked by a project that will remain nameless,” he continued. “To be honest, right now, today I couldn’t think of anything worse. Just the weight gain alone is a reason for me to stay away from it! But I feel like we did so much we set out to do with that film. It’s time to let that film do its thing for a while before I go entertaining anything like that.”
We’ll see and I’m sure Oyelowo will want to try his hand at different projects first before possibly circling back to playing MLK again. But when Spielberg knocks at your door, it’s hard not to answer.