EXCLUSIVE: Here’s a hot one. Black Panther director Ryan Coogler and Charles D. King’s MACRO (Mudbound) are producing movie Jesus Was My Homeboy, about iconic Black Panther Party member Fred Hampton, for Warner Bros.
Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya is in talks to star as activist Hampton with Atlanta and Sorry To Bother You star Lakeith Stanfield in talks to play William O’Neal, the man who betrayed Hampton to the FBI. Shaka King (Newlyweeds) will direct and produce from a script he wrote with Will Berson (Sea Oak).
The film, which will be co-financed by WB and MACRO, will follow the rise and untimely demise of Hampton as seen through O’Neal’s eyes. It will explore how the FBI infiltrated the Black Panthers, the psychology of their informant and the notorious assassination of the young political leader who died aged only 21.
Executive producers are Sev Ohanian, Zinzi Coogler and MACRO’s Kim Roth and Poppy Hanks. The screenplay is based on a story originated by Shaka King, Berson and the Lucas Bros.
Hampton was a respected and talented grass-roots civil rights activist who rose to become chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Panthers organization and deputy chairman of the national BPP. But his charisma, oratorial skills and swift ascent marked him out as a threat in the eyes of the FBI and in 1969 he and fellow Panther Mark Clark were killed during a controversial raid by a tactical unit carrying out orders from the Chicago Police Department and the FBI. O’Neill had provided the FBI with detailed plans of Hampton’s apartment.
The deaths were initially ruled justifiable homicide and the police claimed the Panthers had initiated hostilities, but a number of investigations pointed to state-sponsored assassination and subsequent civil lawsuits led to settlements by law enforcement and Illinois’ Cook County. Thousands attended Hampton’s funeral and he was eulogized by African American leaders including Jesse Jackson and Ralph Abernathy. O’Neal remained haunted by his part in Hampton’s death until his mysterious suicide in 1990.
Widows and Black Panther star Kaluuya is currently filming Universal and Makeready’s Queen And Slim. Atlanta and Sorry To Bother You star Stanfield recently shot Rian Johnson’s Knives Out.
Coogler is producing upcoming Warner Bros pic Space Jam 2 and is also lining up the sequel to global smash Black Panther, while MACRO’s upcoming slate includes Netflix series Raising Dion and Netflix film Tigertail.
Director King made his feature debut with 2013 comedy-drama Newlyweeds and more recently was a director on HBO series High Maintenance and writer on HBO’s Random Acts Of Flyness.