Jonathan Eig’s biography of Martin Luther King Jr., King: A Life, has been optioned by Universal Pictures, according to Deadline. Steven Spielberg is set to executive produce and Chris Rock is in talks to direct and produce.
Award-winning journalist and best-selling biographer Jonathan Eig has previously penned a biography on Muhammed Ali and several other books.
The best-selling Martin Luther King Jr. biography from Jonathan Eig, King: A Life, is being adapted into a film, with Steven Spielberg executive producing and Chris Rock set to direct.
King: A Life is being produced for Universal Pictures by Amblin Partners and Kristie Macosko Krieger will be a producer along with Chris Rock. Krieger has worked with Steven Spielberg previously on many projects including The Fabelmans and Ready Player One.
The book this Steven Spielberg/ Chris Rock project is adapting, King: A Life, is a comprehensive biography, the first in decades, about Martin Luther King, Jr. It was a New York Times best-seller and has been longlisted for this year’s National Book Award by the National Book Foundation. Given new declassified source material, this biography is able to cover portions that have not been included before.
The biography does not shy away from the less-than-squeaky-clean portions of King’s relationships with the FBI and its director, J. Edgar Hoover, and the director’s efforts to undermine his work for civil rights and voting rights.
This will not be the first time Chris Rock has worked with the subject of Martin Luther King, Jr.
While this will not be Emmy and Grammy-winning Chris Rock’s first foray into directing, with Top Five and Head of State under his belt, this movie may be a big step up in his directorial portfolio. Working with such a revered topic in a way that is realistic and respectful could give Rock a chance to really shine as a director.
This will not be the first time Chris Rock has worked with the subject of Martin Luther King, Jr. Previously, he co-starred in Rustin as Roy Wilkins, the NAACP leader who worked with Bayard Rustin (Coleman Domingo) to put together the 1963 march on Washington where King would deliver his historic “I have a dream” speech.
Steven Spielberg Owns Exclusive Rights To Martin Luther King Jr. Speeches
This is a departure from the sort of movies Steven Spielberg usually dons the executive producer cap for. Previous films he’s taken on that role for include Goonies, Jurassic World, and Transformers One. His appearance as executive producer here may be related to his 2009 purchase of the film rights to King’s speeches.
This could possibly mean that this movie would be the first of its kind to include the actual texts of some of King’s speeches in the script.
Due to Spielberg’s prior purchase, other King biographies, like Selma, have not included his speeches, instead using monologues penned by the writers of the movies in accordance with the spirit of his speeches.
Chris Rock’s current comedy special Selective Outrage is currently available on Netflix and has been well received by viewers but less than favorably by critics. Steven Spielberg has multiple projects currently in some stage of development.
There is no word yet on when production is slated to begin.