Neither director Oliver Stone nor actor Jamie Foxx are shy about stirring up a little controversy in the service of well-constructed, politically charged entertainment. Stone’s Vietnam drama Platoon remains one of the preeminent war films ever made, and his conspiracy-filled biopic JFK is returning to theaters this fall for the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. Foxx was at the center of many an internet debate just last year for his work as a white-hating freed slave in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. Neither has boarded the DreamWorks/Warner Bros. co-production of an Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic yet, but reports are that both are having conversations and are very interested.
Stone’s history both with biographical films makes him a logical choice for the new movie, but some may be worried about his propensity for including details outside the established facts. There’s an argument to be made for presenting a particular side of a story in order to build a cohesive narrative rather than trying to cover all perspectives evenly, but Stone’s detractors have in the past accused him of veering too far into what might be considered historical fiction. With conspiracy theories of U.S. government involvement in MLK’s assassination persisting to this day, there would certainly be ground for Stone to explore in this capacity.
What may prove the balancing factor even if Stone does join the project is the presence of members of King’s family. Several are attached to the project as executive producers. Additionally, the project already has a script courtesy of Kario Salem (Chasing Mavericks), so Stone may not be involved as a writer (as was the case on both JFK and Nixon).
As is Hollywood’s bent, the DreamWorks MLK project will be racing to the screen with another chronicle of the civil rights leader, this one from Scott Rudin Productions and Wild Bunch. The project, entitled Memphis, is to be directed by Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips) and recently brought on Forest Whitaker to star. It will supposedly focus on the final days of King’s life, and could be another factor influencing the focus of the DreamWorks piece.