Richard Pryor Biopic Gets A Major Boost From Forest Whitaker

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A big-screen biopic of late comedian Richard Pryor is moving forward, only this time with an Oscar-winning talent leading the charge to push this project up the hill of production and into theaters.

Yes, we know that you’ve heard similar news, from the time Eddie Murphy expressed interest in stepping into the legendary stand-up’s shoes to the moment Mike Epps said he’d play Pryor in a Nina Simone project (with Zoe Saldana cast as the singer).

This time, however, it’s Forest Whitaker confirming his role as a producer on a long-gestating Pryor biopic, which Deadline says will receive valuable input from Pryor’s widow, Jennifer Pryor. Whitaker will produce through his Significant Productions label, settling down to fine-tune a new script and kickstarting the search for a new director and actor to play Pryor in his prime. (Don’t worry: The 51-year-old Whitaker, while immensely talented, seems to realize that he’s now too old to play Pryor in a biopic, and will work behind the scenes to make this biopic work.)

Now, the speculation begins. At one point, Marlon Wayans was discussed as a possible actor ready to play the larger-than-life comedian, but Deadline takes the next obvious step and connects The Wire actor Michael B. Jordan to the part. Jordan stars in the Sundance hit Fruitvale, which Whitaker helped produce, so they have history. He has a following from his work on The Wire and Friday Night Lights. If Fruitvale turns him into a star, that could raise the expectations for a Pryor film even higher.

I’m not sure I’d want to be the actor who attempts to play Pryor on screen. But we’ll see whom Whitaker lands for both the director and the star, as it seems like this project is moving forward once again.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.