In 2009, Eddie Murphy was set to star in a Richard Pryor biopic for Dreamgirls director Bill Condon. Years later, Mike Epps was supposed to play Pryor for filmmaker Lee Daniels. Neither of those versions never ended up happening, but Hollywood is still itching to mine comedic and dramatic glory from Pryor’s whirlwind life.
Black-ish creator Kenya Barris is the latest person to take a swing at a Pryor biopic. A new report says Barris will write the script and make his feature directorial debut with the new movie, which MGM will distribute after winning a “heated” bidding war for the film rights.
Deadline reports that Kenya Barris will write and direct MGM’s Richard Pryor biopic, which will further immortalize the iconic comedian, writer, and actor. “A groundbreaking, once-in-a-lifetime talent, Richard Pryor was a masterful storyteller, a multi-talented entertainer, a comic of acerbic wit, and a survivor with no self-pity,” MGM said in a statement. “With his raw, honest and deeply personal approach to comedy, Pryor transformed the entire art form through his work, inspiring and influencing the generations of artists to come.”
Pryor was one of the best stand-up comedians in history, loved by just about everyone and widely respected and revered by his peers. He was not only an incredible on-stage performer, but his career blossomed out into writing as well: he wrote or co-wrote episodes of Sanford and Son, The Lily Tomlin Show, and his own stand-up specials, and ended up directing a couple of them – including Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling, in which he reflected on the time he accidentally lit himself on fire while freebasing cocaine. Pryor also co-wrote the screenplay for Blazing Saddles, Mel Brooks’ incredibly funny and controversial western comedy. In front of the camera, he appeared in more than 45 films and TV shows, including Superman III, Uptown Saturday Night, Silver Streak, Harlem Nights, Brewster’s Millions, and Lost Highway.
Kenya Barris released a statement about his plans for the biopic: “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.”
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