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Universal drops Paul Greengrass's MLK film Memphis... but why?

Apr. 3, 2011by: George Merchan

Oh, Universal. Just a little over a month ago, you said you wanted to house Paul Greengrass's Martin Luther King, Jr. drama MEMPHIS. But now, Deadline is reporting that you've suddenly decided to drop it? Why?

MEMPHIS, a film written by Greengrass based on his own personalized research about the events leading up to the civil rights icon's assassination, was set to go into production this June. The idea was to get the ball rolling soon in order have the film complete in time for MLK weekend of next year. But apparently Universal lost faith in that, officially attributing their departure to "timing and scheduling" and an uncertainty that the film could be completed in time for February 2012.

True? Possibly. But Deadline claims to have heard other, more interesting rumblings:

"I've heard another factor put pressure on the picture: the MLK estate was highly critical of the project, and exerted pressure on the studio to call it off. I've heard that Andrew Young, former confidante of the civil rights leader, reached out to Universal personally to register his objections."

Similar issues are claimed to have hampered Lee Daniels's currently defunct civil rights film SELMA, which would've also prominently featured MLK.

But as far as MEMPHIS goes, it's unclear whether the King estate's alleged objections are a result of Greengrass going in a controversial direction (likely), or because the estate is already fully supporting a competing film over at DreamWorks (also likely).

Either way, Greengrass and producer Scott Rudin are now looking for new backing to help keep the project on track. Now more than ever, I hope they find it.
Extra Tidbit: I noticed some people seem to be taking issue with a white guy trying to make a film about a black guy. That's some stupidity right there, guys, no offense. Judgement should be reserved for whether or not a filmmaker has the chops to take on certain types of subject matter. That's it. Greengrass, with films like BLOODY SUNDAY and UNITED 93 under his belt (not to mention a background as a documentarian and journalist), has proven that.
Source: Deadline

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+1
5:42PM on 04/04/2011
Not too happy, but not surprised either. There's always someone whose gonna complain. Hollywood is too weak to stand up to the complaints and just deal with it. So let's just cut out a potentially good project cause someone had a hissyfit.
Not too happy, but not surprised either. There's always someone whose gonna complain. Hollywood is too weak to stand up to the complaints and just deal with it. So let's just cut out a potentially good project cause someone had a hissyfit.
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9:01AM on 04/04/2011
Who's doing the complaining?? That extra tidbit seemed to come out of nowhere. As far as the skin color of the director, I don't think people would care. Roots was directed by a white guy. Glory was directed by a white guy. The Color Purple was directed by Steven Spielberg. Lean On Me was directed by a white guy as well. I've never heard any complaints on these films. You seemed to have just created a controversy out of nowhere.

As for the film... gray bar because there's already been a MLK
Who's doing the complaining?? That extra tidbit seemed to come out of nowhere. As far as the skin color of the director, I don't think people would care. Roots was directed by a white guy. Glory was directed by a white guy. The Color Purple was directed by Steven Spielberg. Lean On Me was directed by a white guy as well. I've never heard any complaints on these films. You seemed to have just created a controversy out of nowhere.

As for the film... gray bar because there's already been a MLK movie. But I guess this one could be better.
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8:22AM on 04/04/2011
Give 'em duel birds and finish the film.
Give 'em duel birds and finish the film.
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7:01AM on 04/04/2011
Taylor Hackford wrote and directed Ray.....Clint Eastwood directed Forrest Whitiker in Bird......both great movies! Did they complain then? Not as much.....you base a project solely on the talent...not the race! Funny thing about Lee....he couldn't get his "Brooklyn Loves MJ" project off the ground.......or James Brown.......Hollywood is more idiotic than colorblind......and that's fucking pathetic!
Taylor Hackford wrote and directed Ray.....Clint Eastwood directed Forrest Whitiker in Bird......both great movies! Did they complain then? Not as much.....you base a project solely on the talent...not the race! Funny thing about Lee....he couldn't get his "Brooklyn Loves MJ" project off the ground.......or James Brown.......Hollywood is more idiotic than colorblind......and that's fucking pathetic!
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6:47AM on 04/04/2011
I totally agree with the extra tidbit. Why people would still judge people by the color of their skin? I mean, really, why? The way directors should be considered for a movie is how the movie perform either critically or commercially. Still, I don't think MLK project will be greenlighted.
I totally agree with the extra tidbit. Why people would still judge people by the color of their skin? I mean, really, why? The way directors should be considered for a movie is how the movie perform either critically or commercially. Still, I don't think MLK project will be greenlighted.
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2:11AM on 04/04/2011
I agree with the extra tidbit. Like other commenters, i'm reminded of Spike Lee's less than encouraging comments on Michael Mann making ALI, etc.

I'm not surprised at Universal for this, I mean these are the same people that pulled the plug on PTA's Master, which is loosely about Scientology. Ironically, the official reason behind that was budgetary, since their big 2008 picture Greenzone, directed by Greengrass, didn't make Bourne dollars.
I agree with the extra tidbit. Like other commenters, i'm reminded of Spike Lee's less than encouraging comments on Michael Mann making ALI, etc.

I'm not surprised at Universal for this, I mean these are the same people that pulled the plug on PTA's Master, which is loosely about Scientology. Ironically, the official reason behind that was budgetary, since their big 2008 picture Greenzone, directed by Greengrass, didn't make Bourne dollars.
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12:25AM on 04/04/2011
This is just unfortunate. I'm of the opinion these are the kinds of movies Greengrass should be making, after "Unite 93" proved a far better use of his hand-held style than any Matt Damon actioner. Based on the research and sensitivity shown in that movie, if ever there was a white guy worthy of taking this on, it's him.

But that doesn't make sense if the estate is blocking "Selma" for THAT reason. I thought that movie was still getting made. Damn, that's too bad. Could've been a real
This is just unfortunate. I'm of the opinion these are the kinds of movies Greengrass should be making, after "Unite 93" proved a far better use of his hand-held style than any Matt Damon actioner. Based on the research and sensitivity shown in that movie, if ever there was a white guy worthy of taking this on, it's him.

But that doesn't make sense if the estate is blocking "Selma" for THAT reason. I thought that movie was still getting made. Damn, that's too bad. Could've been a real comeback role for Robert De Niro as George Wallace. King was a controversial man who has been granted sainthood in his death. Not that I don't appreciate what he did, but I'm sure it's very hard for some to look back and believe he was just a regular guy who decided to stand up for something the way he did. The human story tends to get lost in the history lesson.
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11:30PM on 04/03/2011

Bullshit

I was really excited for this...
I was really excited for this...
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+20
11:18PM on 04/03/2011

Come On, Now...

...the "some people" is Spike Lee, isn't it?
...the "some people" is Spike Lee, isn't it?
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11:25PM on 04/03/2011
Spike's probably mad he wasn't asked to do it.
Spike's probably mad he wasn't asked to do it.
+28
9:45PM on 04/03/2011

Extra tidbit

That's disappointing that some are upset that a white guy is making a film about a black guy. I have a dream that directors will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
That's disappointing that some are upset that a white guy is making a film about a black guy. I have a dream that directors will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
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