Last year, we reported that director Lee Daniels was planning to follow up The Butler with a Janis Joplin biopic starring Amy Adams. However, it now looks like he’s moving towards another biopic, this one around legendary comedian Richard Pryor. A Pryor biopic has been in the works for years, and last year we reported that Forest Whitaker was set to co-produce an untitled picture based on the stand-up comic’s life with the possibility of re-teaming with his Fruitvale Station star, Michael B. Jordan, to play the lead role. Today’s news regarding Daniels’ Pryor biopic makes no mention of Whitaker (a bit odd since he starred in The Butler), but still mentions Pryor’s widow, Jennifer Pryor, as a producer the project. However, Michael B. Jordan is still in the mix as are Marlon Wayans and Eddie Murphy. Hit the jump for more.
According to THR, the film, which will be handled by The Weinstein Company, will primarily cover Pryor’s life during his 30s. However, the Hollywood Reporter also says Wayans “at 41 years old is considered to be the right age for the project”, so that’s a bit confusing. Nevertheless, Wayans’ screen test reportedly “wowed Harvey Weinstein“, and there’s the question of whether the 26-year-old Jordan can be aged up for Pryor, or if the production can de-age the 52-year-old Murphy, which seems a lot harder to do. If Murphy has an edge, it’s that he comes from stand-up comedy whereas Wayans’ background is sketch work. Nevertheless, each of these actors has the potential to bring something interesting to the role.
My doubt is with Daniels. I’m sure Daniels can handle the dramatic side, or at least push it to the point where it’s on the verge of breaking. And if it does break, then Daniels will do what he’s done on numerous occasions before, which is create unintentional comedy. When it comes to intentional comedy, the kind of laughs one would hope to see in the biopic of a comedian, I don’t know if Daniels can do it. I see him drawn more to despair and mawkishness, and leaving the spirit of Pryor’s best work behind.