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

04.03.2011

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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