Memphis Reporter Bemoans Absence of Definitive MLK Biopic

In journalism class, the topic of how to write a great “lede” is endlessly discussed, analyzed and rehearsed. Today, Memphis Commercial Appeal reporter John Beifuss shares a shining example of this art form in connection with rumblings of a new Hollywood project about the life of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Writes Beifuss:

Judging from Hollywood’s success rate, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of brotherhood and racial equality might be achieved before the first definitive King biopic gets to the screen.

Beifuss is reacting to Thurday’s unconfirmed reports that Paul Greengrass, ostensibly one of the best on-paper matches for the material, might be getting ready to finally add King to the pantheon of greatest American stories retold. The Hollywood dream of an award-winning MLK biopic connects to a long list of previously touted glorifiers, from Spike Lee to Steven Spielberg.

The real challenge is going to be casting. Over the years, those who have portrayed MLK include LeVar Burton in Ali and Paul Winfield in the 1978 NBC miniseries King (still arguably the best channeling). Will Smith has repeatedly been mentioned as the ideal future choice; perhaps he’ll wind up in the seven-hour HBO miniseries that Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions is planning.