Marlon Wayans In Talks To Star In Richard Pryor Biopic

7 10 2009

Wayans to star as Pryor

According to MTV‘s movie blog, Marlon Wayans is in talks to star in the upcoming biopic Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said? as the late comedian. The film being developed by Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison label at Sony, was rumored earlier this year to have Eddie Murphy in the lead role, reuniting him with director Bill Condon who worked with the star on Dreamgirls. Murphy however is out, and it looks like Wayans, best known for slapstick humor roles with his brother Shawn, may be in.

Hitflix, which for their part is confirming Marlon Wayans already has the part, says the actor wowed producers with his audition in which he reportedly “transforms into Pryor.” Despite Pryor’s status as a legendary comedian, the film tackles the dark sides of his life as well, including his drug addiction and lighting himself on fire while freebasing cocaine and drinking 151 proof alcohol. This will be a change for Sandler’s Happy Madison brand which picked up the project from Paramount and Fox Searchlight and has largely focused on standard comedies. Interestingly enough before the film switched to Sony, it was Murphy’s conflict with the studio that reportedly forced him off of the picture, but now that it has changed hands it looks like he has lost his role. Chris Rock is joining Condon, Mark Gordon and Pryor’s widow Jennifer Lee Pryor as producers on the film which is based on the screenplay written by Pryor and his 4th wife.

There’s no way around it, my immediate reaction to this is all negative. Richard Pryor is one of the most nuanced, troubled and brilliant comedians we’ve ever had and they’re giving it to the star of Little Man? If you want a look at the life of Pryor go rent Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling from netflix, or for a similarly complex character performance, Don Cheadle in Talk To Me (on the life of D.C. talk show host Petey Green). The only thing that gives me pause is Wayans work in Requiem for a Dream. He showed a great deal more range than he is given credit for, and has even hinted at some dramatic ability in The Wayans Bros. and Ladykillers, but only briefly. Wayans really might have the chops to pull this off and surprise everyone, but twenty years into his career the fact that he has only really pushed himself to do it once is what troubles me. I’d love to see him do it, but I can’t deny being skeptical.

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