EXCLUSIVE… UPDATE: Memphis, Paul Greengrass‘ film about the final days of Dr. Martin Luther King, is coming back around. Now, I hear that steps are underway to make Memphis Greengrass’ next directorial outing. I’ve heard that Veritas is in talks to finance with Wild Bunch. You might recall the picture was shelved after Universal Pictures dropped out, and Greengrass and producer Scott Rudin shelved it because it became too difficult to set up new financing and shoot the film so that it could be released during the MLK weekend holiday. Greengrass and Rudin moved on to make Captain Phillips, the Sony drama about the Somali pirate heist that stars Tom Hanks as Captain Richard Phillips.
The script depicts Dr. King’s final days as he struggled to organize a protest march on behalf of striking black municipal sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was slain. That storyline is juxtaposed with an intense manhunt for King’s assassin James Earl Ray, involving some of the federal authorities who, at Hoover’s direction, had dogged King’s every step with wiretaps and whispering campaigns before the civil rights leader’s death.
I’ve written about how the King family and the activist’s close confidante, Ambassador Andrew Young, have objections to the project: King’s heirs have their own project at DreamWorks, and Young objected to the depiction of infidelity. I read the script when Greengrass tried to make the movie last time around, and felt it was Oscar caliber stuff that was a powerful testament to King’s struggle and his sacrifice, even if he was portrayed as an imperfect human being. Let’s see how this one comes together, but I must say it is as good as any script I’ve read in years.