Chris Rock Will Direct and Steven Spielberg to Executive Produce Martin Luther King Jr. Biopic For Universal Pictures

Chris Rock Will Direct and Steven Spielberg to Executive Produce Martin Luther King Jr. Biopic For Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures is preparing to shoot a cinematic biopic about the life of Martin Luther King Jr. The studio has optioned the rights to adapt writer Jonathan Eig’s critically acclaimed biographical book, King: A Life. Universal is currently in final discussions with Chris Rock to direct and produce the film, which Steven Spielberg will serve as an executive producer on, Deadline is reporting.

The movie will be produced by Amblin Partners, which Spielberg co-founded in 2015. Kristie Macosko Krieger is set to serve as a producer on the biopic, alongside Rock. Universal’s Senior Vice President of Production Development Ryan Jones will oversee the project on behalf of the studio.

Besides its critical acclaim, King: A Life has also garnered commercial success, including becoming an instant New York Times Bestseller, since it was released on May 16 by Macmillan Publishers. The book, which is also a Washington Post and National Indie Bestseller, has been nominated for the National Book Award. The deal for the biographical literary piece was brokered by Lucy Stille at Lucy Stille Literary on behalf of the David Black Agency.

King: A Life has been hailed as a definitive biography of the titular civil rights icon Dr. King. It quickly became notable for its use of previously untapped sources that include newly declassified FBI information.

The book details how Dr. King demanded peaceful protests in the segregationist south. The protests he led are set against him grappling with his own frailties and a federal government that tried to stop his efforts, instead of honoring his heroic efforts.

Eig has scribed six books throughout his career. Three of them, including The Birth of The Pill, Ali: A Life and Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig, have all been optioned and are in active development for film and television adaptations. The PEN Literary Award winner also served as a consulting producer for the PBS series Muhammad Ali, which was directed by Ken Burns.

Besides negotiating a deal to helm King: A Life‘s screen adaptation, Rock can next been seen on screen as an actor in the upcoming biographical drama, Rustin. The movie was penned by Julian Breece and Oscar-winnning screenwriter, Dustin Lance Black. The film was directed by Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom helmer, George C. Wolfe.

In addition to Rock, Rustin also stars Colman Domingo as Bayard Rustin. The eponymous character organized the 1963 march on Washington, D.C., where Dr. King made his iconic “I have a dream” speech that galvanized the battle to desegregate the south. In the upcoming film, Rock plays the pivotal role of Roy Wilkins, the NAACP leader who reluctantly embraced Rustin’s efforts and made the march possible.

The forthcoming feature premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on August 31, and then screened at the Toronto International Film Festival. The drama’s scheduled to be released in select theaters on November 3, before it debuts on Netflix on November 17.

The upcoming biopic about Dr. King is a big step up for Rock as a director. The Emmy and Tony Award-winning performer previously scribed and helmed the romantic comedy, Top Five. The project became the biggest deal at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival, after Paramount Pictures bought the project’s world rights. Rock also helmed Head of State and I Think I Love My Wife.

Besides being a filmmaker and actor, Rock is also a celebrated stand-up comedian. He made history on March 4 when his Netflix standup special, Chris Rock: Selective Outrage, became the first to be presented in a global live streaming event.

Check out more of Karen Benardello’s articles. 

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