Paramount Pictures has hired screenwriter Charles Murray to pen the script for the studio’s biopic of famed performer Sammy Davis Jr. Murray’s credits include being the writer and executive producer on FX drama Sons of Anarchy and the Marvel Netflix series Luke Cage.
Produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Mike Menchel and musical icon Lionel Richie, the feature will be partially based on Davis’ 1965 memoir Yes I Can: The Story of Sammy Davis Jr. The filmmakers will also work alongside Davis’ estate for the biopic.
At just only three years old, Davis Jr. began his career in vaudeville, kicking off his stardom as an extremely versatile performer, celebrated as an American singer, musician, dancer, actor, vaudevillian, comedian, activist, and impressionist. His most notable works include recording Billboard Top 100 hits like “The Candy Man”, and starring in films like Ocean’s 11 as a member of the Rat Pack, a group of Las Vegas performers that included other acclaimed stars like Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.
Menchel revealed that finding the right writer has been a long process for the team, but Murray, despite his physical differences with the wiry film subject, happened to be the best candidate for the biopic. Murray stated to Deadline that “if you saw me, I’m 6’4″ and 290 pounds, maybe 300 if I’m being really honest. So it might surprise you that I grew up loving musicals, and gravitated to Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Elvis and James Cagney, and this little black dude I would see on TV, who held his own alongside Frank Sinatra.”
With his encyclopedic knowledge and passionate enthusiasm for Davis, Murray continues to praise him: “I would see movies like Ocean’s 11 and Sammy just stood out,” Murray said. “Singing with Frank, dancing like Fred and Gene, with none of those cats looked at him any different in those movies because he was black. I think I made the proclamation to my parents around eight that I wanted to make movies when I grew up…There was something completely unique about [Sammy Davis Jr.] and I never forgot him.”