It won’t be a Huey P. Newton biopic… but still an interesting story.
The short version of the story goes… "Easy Rider" producer Bert Schneider, was a pal and supporter of the Black Panthers, even reportedly giving them $10,000 way back when, to help with the organization’s initiatives.
It’s said that Black Panther leader Huey Newton even became quite close to Schneider, some times staying at Schneider’s home for weeks at a time, in the early 1970s.
As reports you can find on the web state, in 1974, Newton, on bail for an assault charge, was accused of killing a 17-year-old prostitute. He jumped bail and hid out with Schneider, who eventually would devise a plan to smuggle Newton out of the country, to Cuba, where he could seek political asylum.
The plan was to sail through the Panama Canal to Mexico, where Newton would be picked up, after Schneider smuggled him across the border.
Well, needless to say, everything didn’t quite go as planned (Newton did return eventually to faced charges, and we know what happened to him eventually). But I’ll refer you to a lengthy Salon.com article, titled "True Hollywood story: The producer and the Black Panther," which goes into lots of detail about the relationship between Schneider and Newton, and much more. Read it HERE.
If anything, regardless of where your POV lies, it’s a fascinating read documenting an interesting period in our history.
Thanks to all the excitement and acclaim over Ben Affleck’s "Argo" (which I’ve yet to see), itself based on a somewhat similar explosive mixture of Hollywood and politics, a film based on the above series of events is being shopped in Hollywood right now.
According to Deadline: "UTA is right now out to film producers with "The Big Cigar," an article from December’s Playboy which details how Easy Rider producer Bert Schneider conjured up a film to help smuggle Black Panthers co-founder Huey Newton out of the U.S. and into Cuba to avoid being tried for murder and another violent crime. Bearman and Jim Hecht will write the script."
Bearman being Joshua Bearman, the author of the Wired Magazine article that inspired Ben Affleck’s "Argo."
Is the December issue of Playboy even out yet? I visited their website to see that the October issue is still being highlighted, so I’m guessing not. Also, a Google search didn’t pull up anything about the article (The Big Cigar) mentioned, so I suppose it’s on its way, and will turn up when the December issue goes on sale.
But I can hear your arguments already, loud and clear… "Oh great Tambay – another film centered on a black historical figure’s struggles, but as a character in what’s really a white person’s story!"
I know, I know… feel free to lower your expectations now.
However, it’s not a done deal. The project is being shopped, but hasn’t been set up at any studio just yet. With Argo opening this weekend, all eyes might be on that film to see how well it does at the box office. It already has Oscar buzz around it, but strong box office is maybe one thing that will help determine whether "The Big Cigar" catches any waves.
And if it does, who would be your choice for the actor to play Huey Newton???