Martin Luther King Jr. Biopic Coming From Chris Rock & Steven Spielberg with Rights to Actual Speech

American Baptist minister and civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 - 1968) holds a press conference at the Savoy Hotel in London, UK, September 1964
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A film about civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. is coming. Universal Pictures is involved in a new movie based on Jonathan Eig’s biography “King: A Life,” known as the most comprehensive biography of the late activist. Comedian Chris Rock is reportedly in talks to be the director and producer of the project, while Steven Spielberg has already signed on as an executive producer.

The biography features hundreds of interviews and even FBI information to get a clear picture of Dr. King’s life and his impact on our society. The book paints him as a “courageous but emotionally troubled individual who demanded peaceful protest while grappling with his own frailties and a government that hunted him.” Since the film is still in the early stages, no casting decisions or premiere dates have been announced.

Chris Rock attends Netflix's "Kevin Hart & Chris Rock: Headliners Only" New York screening at Paris Theater on December 08, 2023 in New York City

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While Rock is known as a comedian and actor, this would not be his first time directing a film. He previously directed Head of State (2003), I Think I Love My Wife (2007), and Top Five (2014). While Rock’s involvement may be new, this film has been in the works for a while.

Steven Spielberg appears on stage during the Opening Ceremony of the 66th Annual Cannes Film Festival at the Palais des Festivals on May 15, 2013 in Cannes, France

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Back in 2009, Spielberg and his company DreamWorksSKG obtained a license from Dr. King’s estate to use his copyrighted speeches in a film. Although a movie at the time was canceled, Spielberg kept the copyright. He also obtained filmmaking access to Dr. King’s life and intellectual property. This means that his actual speeches and words may be used in the upcoming film.

Selma David Oyelowo, as Martin Luther King Jr., 2014

Atsushi Nishijima/Paramount Pictures/Everett Collection

This is a big deal because the executors of Dr. King’s Estate, his children Bernice, Dexter, and Martin, have been very selective about the licensing rights. It seems they believe in the vision put forth by the highly acclaimed Spielberg. Of course, there have been other films made about Dr. King including 2014’s Selma but they had to use paraphrased speeches because they did not have the rights to the actual words used. Reportedly, Spielberg loved actor David Oyelowo‘s portrayal in Selma and has asked him if he would be in the new film, although it has not yet been confirmed if he said yes or no. Stay tuned for more details!

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