BREAKING: Fresh off his deal to acquire feature distributor Freestyle Releasing, Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios has just nailed down global rights to the Sammy Davis, Jr. Biography Deconstructing Sammy with ambitious plans to do a feature, a scripted TV series and documentary about his life.
The biography by Matt Birkbeck, which published in 2008, tells the story of Davis’ small beginnings in Harlem to his struggles with racism and his rise as one of the members of the iconic Rat Pack, his controversial relationship with white actress Kim Novak and then subsequent marriage to Swedish actress May Britt, and his death from cancer, while hangers on basically looted his house while on his deathbed.
The push to get the rights to the iconic star almost died for Allen in the courts. Back in the fall of 2012, the producer was sued for $35 million by Rick Appling. The indie producer alleged that he actually was sold the rights to the legendary performer’s life by Davis’ daughter not Allen. That suit was thrown out of court. Of course, Allen is still in the courts with separate multi-billion dollar racial discrimination suits against Comcast and AT&T.
All three projects — the documentary, the scripted TV series and the feature — are being developed at the same but production for the motion picture is looking to start in the second quarter of 2016.
The scripted television series will delve into Davis’ life through from the 1960s to the 1980s. The acquisition of the book rights is a prestige one for Allen but clearly also a very personal one. “I personally knew and worked with Sammy Davis, Jr.,” said Allen. “Sammy hired me to open for him at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas when I was a 19-year-old stand-up comedian, and that’s where my fascination with his incredible story began.” He added that the book “is an amazing work of literature. It is the perfect foundation for a movie, a scripted television series, and a documentary about this legendary global icon.”
Global distribution will be handled by Entertainment Studios’ recently-acquired motion picture finance and distribution company Freestyle Releasing.
Dominic Patten contributed to this report.