Oprah Winfrey has come aboard as a producer on “Selma,” a biopic about the iconic Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to be distributed by Paramount Pictures, according to a report by Deadline Hollywood.
The long-gestating film will focus on King’s historic 1965 voting rights campaign and will be directed by Ava DuVernay, who became the first black woman to win best director at the Sundance Film Festival with her 2012 microbudget indie drama “Middle of Nowhere.”
DuVernay rewrote the “Selma” script after joining the project in July and sent it to Winfrey, who took notice, the report says. British actor David Oyelowo, who starred in “Middle of Nowhere” and “Lee Daniels’ the Butler,” is set to play King. (Daniels was originally attached to direct “Selma” but left the project in 2010.)
It has proved difficult for films about race to get financed in Hollywood, but after the commercial success of “The Butler,” which grossed $116 million domestically and an additional $51 million overseas, and the art-house success of “12 Years a Slave,” which grossed $128 million worldwide and is a strong contender for the Oscars’ top prize, things could be changing. It certainly will help to have Winfrey, a billionaire media mogul and “The Butler” co-star, attached to “Selma.”
At the moment, the film isn’t the only King production in the works, though it seems to be the one furthest along.
Oliver Stone announced on Twitter last month that he was dropping out of a planned MLK movie over a script dispute, writing: “Sad news. My MLK project involvement has ended. I did an extensive rewrite of the script, but the producers won’t go with it.”
“Captain Philips” director Paul Greengrass, meanwhile, said in December that his King project, “Memphis,” isn’t ready and won’t be his next film.