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Two major projects involving the life and times of Martin Luther King Jr. have tried and failed to make their way into production over the course of the last couple of years. First there was the Paul Greengrass project Memphis, which was passed on by Universal and Sony alike, only to go forward as an independent picture. Then there's Selma, a project formerly headed by Lee Daniels and star David Oyelowo (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Help, Lee Daniel's The Butler) as Martin Luther King, Jr. After many starts and stops four years later, the project is still a go with another director and Oyelowo still in the lead, and now, The Hollywood Reporter has the scoop that the key role of Coretta Scott King has also been cast.
Carmen Ejogo (Alex Cross, Sparkle, The Purge: Anarchy) has been signed to play Ms. King, who served as a Civil Rights activist alongside her husband, joining in the march for racial equality from the titular city to Montgomery, Alabama. This project and the rival Greengrass project have both been in development for about the same time frame, and it looks like Selma is going to beat Memphis to the punch. Tom Wilkinson will be playing Lyndon B. Johnson, and Ava DuVernay will be directing, following up stints on shows like Scandal and films like Middle of Nowhere. (Which, coincidentally enough, also starred David Oyelowo.)
Even with three key roles cast and a director in place, the project is still not out of the woods yet. Still, Selma seems to be ahead of its rival, as it also has the producing power of Oprah Winfrey's Harpo and Brad Pitt's Plan B production shingles. Oprah has the clout, and Brad kinda won an Oscar this year for a little movie called 12 Years A Slave. If there were a team that could get this movie not only moving, but green-lit in a heartbeat, it'd be this one.
This film could give a huge boost to DuVernay's career, as she's still a relative newcomer to the film directing circuit. That said, she did win the "Best Director Award" at Sundance back in 2012. With Ms. Ejogo's and Mr. Oyelowo's stars on the rise (and her previous experience directing the later), this looks like it could be another big success. Pathe is backing the film, with Paramount distributing domestically. No word yet on any production scheduling or release window, which gives Memphis plenty of time to catch up.