The Richard Pryor Biopic Just Took A Massive Step Forward

Richard Pryor in See No Evil, Hear No Evil

Will the Richard Pryor biopic ever get made? It's pretty hard to say at this point. The project has been developing for more than a decade now, and while it's true that there is a history of movies escaping that kind of development hell, there are also plenty that don't. We can't predict the future – but one thing that we do know about the film is that the effort to get it made still continues, and that has led to today's news about a new director signing on board.

Kenya Barris, who is best known for creating the hit ABC series Black-ish, has come aboard to both write and direct the Richard Pryor biopic, which is now set up for production at MGM according to The Hollywood Reporter. The film will mark the first time that Barris has helmed a feature, though he does have experience on the small screen having directed episodes of both the aforementioned Black-ish and his more recent show, #BlackAF.

About 11 years ago the Richard Pryor biopic was envisioned as a reunion between Dreamgirls director Bill Condon and Eddie Murphy, with Murphy portraying the legendary comedian, but things have changed a hell of a lot over the course of the project's development. Marlon Wayans wound up replacing Murphy in the lead role, and years after that (in 2014, specifically) Lee Daniels took over the director's chair. Mike Epps was cast for the lead in that version of the project, and the project put together a cast including Oprah Winfrey, Kate Hudson, Eddie Murphy, and Tracy Morgan, but, again, things eventually stalled out.

That brings us to now, and the hiring of Kenya Barris – and it certainly sounds like a film that he is tremendously honored and excited to make. In an official statement with the news of the hiring, Barris said,

The way Pryor did what he did — with truth and specificity that was somehow self-aware and self-deprecating, and said with an unmatched level of vulnerability — that was the power and impact of his work. Pryor had a voice that was distinctly his and, in many ways, comedy since then has been derivative of what he created. To me, this is a film about that voice, the journey that shaped it, and what it took for it to come to be.

As mentioned, this film will be the first time that Barris has directed a feature, and it's true that most of his career has been spent on the small screen, but he has made some notable contributions to the big screen world in the last few years, having written the scripts for films including Barbershop: The Next Cut, Girls Trip, and The Witches (which just arrived on HBO Max this past weekend)

It will be interesting to see if this is the version of the Richard Pryor biopic that makes it into production, and we'll be sure to keep track of its developments here on CinemaBlend, so stay tuned for the latest updates.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.