It’s looking like Paul Greengrass’s cancelled Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic might be getting new life after all, thanks in part to the fact that Forest Whitaker is considering taking the role of King. The film, entitled Memphis, was originally going to be financed by Universal, but after they backed out in 2011 the project was put on indefinite hold and Greengrass went off to make Captain Phillips with Tom Hanks, due out October 11 of this year. The first stirrings of new possibility came late last year when superstar producer Scott Rudin (Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, True Grit, The Social Network) set up a deal with independent financiers, but actually seems likely now that Whitaker may get involved.
Greengrass is probably best known for directing The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, but seems to have a soft spot for based on true stories; in addition to Captain Phillips, which recounts the 2009 hijacking of an American cargo ship by Somali pirates, Greengrass wrote and directed the 9/11 story Flight 93. Memphis is a Greengrass script as well.
The title refers to the city in which King was assassinated, and the script follows both the immediate run up to the assassination, as King went to support striking sanitation workers, and the manhunt for his killer, James Earl Ray. Ray was captured two months after King’s death at the London Heathrow Airport. More controversially, the script is also reported to feature the allegations of King’s infidelity in order to give a fuller picture of the life of the American icon. King’s heirs have thus far withheld their support from the film, which has contributed to some of its difficulties in pre-production.
As reported in a number of MLK biographies, King supposedly had a number of lovers, though whether these women were involved with King sexually or only emotionally is a point of debate. FBI wiretaps, initiated under suspicion of King’s communist sympathies, purportedly make record of these affairs, but in 1977 a federal judge ordered all records and recordings sealed until 2027.