Timely news comes on the heels of Martin Luther King Jr. Day: DreamWorks has tapped a screenwriter for its biopic about the civil rights leader. Ronald Harwood, who won an Oscar for penning Roman Polanski's Holocaust drama The Pianist, will handle the task of adapting MLK's life once again for the screen, this time with the authorization of part of the King Estate. While other films and miniseries about or involving the Reverend Doctor have been made in the past, none have been approved by any members of his family or had access to his intellectual property (such as the "I Have a Dream" speech). This as yet untitled biopic will also be a bigger deal than past efforts due to the fact it's being produced by Steven Spielberg.

Harwood is also a pretty significant player. In addition to winning an Academy Award, he's been nominated for his scripts for The Dresser and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Other films he's written include Australia, The Browning Version and Polanski's film of Oliver Twist. He also has experience with civil rights subject matter. A native of South Africa, Harwood wrote the adaptation for the apartheid drama Cry, the Beloved Country and the made-for-TV biopic Mandela, starring Danny Glover as the anti-apartheid activist (and South African president-to-be). He's also covered the apartheid subject in novels and plays.
According to Variety, the MLK film's focus is unknown (won't it just be a straight biography?), and Harwood's first statement about the project brings no clarity: "I will not say anything about my approach to this screenplay except to say what I always say: 'I will do my utmost to be true to truth.'"

The biopic is also sans director (Spielberg will not be at the helm) and star. While we wait anxiously to find out how MLK impersonator Stephon Ferguson does on his audition for the lead part, it's time once again to begin speculating and proposing A-list actors who'd be right for the role previously played by Paul Winfield, James Earl Jones, Robert Guillaume, Clifton Powell, LeVar Burton, Jeffrey Wright and Jaleel "Urkel" White (in voice form). Jamie Foxx was rumored last year to be up for the part, but is he the right choice?

As for who should direct, my ideal pick would be Norman Jewison, whose career will be honored by the DGA later this month. But I think he may be retired, as he hasn't made a film since 2003's The Statement, which was scriped by Harwood. Maybe Spielberg could convince the seven-time Oscar-nominee to come on board. I bet he'd finally get a Best Director Academy Award (even if it's one of those lifetime-achievement-based wins) for his trouble.
categories Cinematical