Paul Greengrass' Martin Luther King Jr. Film 'Memphis' Back on Track
by Ben Pearson
November 19, 2012
Not to be confused with the big screen musical adaptation Memphis or Amy Berg's documentary West of Memphis, there's another project that shares a name with the famous Tennessee city that's back in development. United 93 director Paul Greengrass has been trying to make a film called Memphis about the final days of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. since January of 2011, but when Universal Pictures backed out, the project fell apart. And despite the fact that DreamWorks has its own MLK biopic in the works, Deadline reports that funding for Memphis is coming together and this could be Greengrass's next directorial effort.
Memphis is not a traditional biopic, juxtaposing Dr. King's efforts to organize a sanitation strike in Tennessee with the hunt for his killer, James Earl Ray, by the FBI. Sounds like a non-linear narrative, which which might be enough to separate this story from some of the competing MLK projects in development right now. It's also interesting to note that this project still doesn't have the approval of Dr. King's estate because it apparently depicts him drinking, smoking, gaining weight, and losing some of his prominent allies as the turmoil of his life and struggling marriage took its toll on him near the end of his days.
But that humanization of the iconic man also reminds me of Spielberg's Lincoln, a comparison I'm sure Greengrass would like to be kept in mind when Oscar season rolls around since this one sounds like it covers much of the same ground. And while it's ludicrous to prognosticate about Oscar chances of a movie that isn't even in production yet, with mega-producer Scott Rudin (The Social Network) behind this one, I'm sure they're hoping that the road to the Academy Awards will head through Memphis.