Oscar-winning writer John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) is set to write and direct Shirley, a biopic about Shirley Chisholm, the United States’ first Black Congresswoman who made additional history when she later ran for President in the early 1970s. Oscar-winning actor Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk, Watchmen) is now set to play Chisholm, and King will also produce the new film.
Variety reports that Regina King will star in and produce John Ridley’s new film Shirley, which is being produced by Participant Media, the company behind films like Spotlight, Roma, American Factory, Contagion, The Help, and shows like Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us. According to the outlet, the movie’s story “tracks Chisholm’s 1972 presidential campaign, a groundbreaking historical moment, giving what’s described as ‘an intimate, behind-the-scenes portrait of one of the most ground-breaking political leaders of our time.’”
Chisholm, who was elected as the country’s first Black congresswoman in 1968, was the first-ever Black candidate for a major party’s nomination for President of the United States. As you might expect, she encountered massive amounts of sexism during her campaign – even from within her own party. This sounds like exactly the type of socially conscious project that Participant loves to make, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Ridley has up his sleeve here. After his Oscar win for writing 12 Years a Slave, he directed movies like Jimi: All is By My Side and Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992.
Of course, the title Shirley was recently used by Josephine Decker’s Elisabeth Moss-led film about author Shirley Jackson, so I’m not sure if this new movie will keep that single-word title or if it will end up being called something else. Late last year, we wrote about a Shirley Chisholm film called The Fighting Shirley Chisholm, which was set to be directed by Cherien Dabis (Ramy, Ozark), written by Adam Countee (Community, Silicon Valley), and produced by Stephanie Allain (Hustle & Flow, Dear White People). Black Panther actress Danai Gurira was set to star, replacing Viola Davis in the lead role. But none of those details are mentioned in Variety’s new article, so I’m still a bit confused about whether that is a totally different project, or if that one has since been retitled and swapped out talent in front of and behind the camera.
“Shirley Chisholm’s fearless determination has been an inspiration to so many of us, and with this film we hope to inspire many generations to come,” King said in a statement. “To collaborate once again with my friend and mentor, John Ridley, and the team at Participant, makes this decade-long journey even sweeter.” I suppose that “decade-long” component is another piece of evidence in favor of this being the same project as The Fighting Shirley Chisholm, as is Variety’s assertion that this new movie is “being produced based on the life story rights through an exclusive agreement with the Chisholm Estate.”
Production on Shirley is expected to begin later this year.
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