The Butler director Lee Daniels is in talks to helm the long-in-development Richard Pryor biopic.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Daniels is in negotiations to reunite with the Weinstein Company for the project, which the studio will fully finance. The Weinstein Company produced and distributed Daniels’ surprise hit about White House butler Cecil Gaines, which grossed over $161 million worldwide against a $30 million budget. The film was loosely based on the real life of Eugene Allen, a waiter and butler who worked for the White House for 34 years until his retirement in 1986.
Fruitvale Station star Michael B. Jordan, Marlon Wayans, and Eddie Murphy are on the shortlist to play the late comedian. While Wayans and Murphy have a well-established comedy background, they also have some dramatic roles under their belts to tackle some of the darker aspects of Pryor’s life. Wayans starred as drug addict Tyrone C. Love in Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream, and Murphy won a Golden Globe for his role as drug addicted R&B singer Jimmy “Thunder” Early in Dreamgirls. Murphy was also nominated for an Academy Award for the role.
Jordan, on the other hand, is the opposite, having more a dramatic background with roles on The Wire and Friday Night Lights. The 26-year-old also earned critical acclaim for his portrayal of BART shooting victim Oscar Grant in Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station. Although Richard Pryor died of a heart attack in 2005 at the age of 65, much of the film will focus on his 30s, leaving a little bit of leeway for Jordan to be aged up through makeup. Marlon Wayans could still emerge as the top contender, with his screen test reportedly impressing Harvey Weinstein.
Richard Pryor’s widow, Jennifer Pryor, is producing the biopic. Last March, it was announced that Forest Whitaker had been tapped as producer, but it’s unclear whether he is still attached to the project.
[Photo credit: Sharon Graphics / Flickr]