Richard Pryor Biopic Still Alive w/ Lee Daniels Back to Direct + Jay Z Comes On-board to Produce
Photo Credit: BEVERLY HILLS, CA - NOVEMBER 09: Director Lee Daniels attends the BAFTA Los Angeles Britannia Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on November 9, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)

Richard Pryor Biopic Still Alive w/ Lee Daniels Back to Direct + Jay Z Comes On-board to Produce

Lee Daniels
Lee Daniels

Our last update on this (in May of this year) was to announce that Lee Daniels, who was initially attached to direct the film, exited the project. Reasons given had nothing to do with any creative differences; Daniels was/is a busy man these days, with a hit Fox series in “Empire,” and a second musical drama series – “Star” – greenlit by Fox, which premieres next year. So with “Empire” and “Star” on his plate, with active involvement in each, it appeared he had little time for much else. And a Richard Pryor biopic certainly isn’t something to take lightly, and make “on the side.” It requires the full participation and commitment of the filmmaker.

It was then announced that The Weinstein Company, who are backing the film, were on the hunt for a director to replace Daniels – a hunt that’s apparently brought them right back to Daniels, because Harvey Weinstein revealed today, during a press conference for another project he’s producing with Jay Z, which we announced this morning (the Spike TV docuseries on Kalief Browder).

Weinstein said that the film is still on, with Lee Daniels attached to direct; he added that Jay Z is now also on board to produce, which is certainly news.

As of our last update on the biopic, Tracy Morgan was in negotiations to play Redd Foxx in the film. He would have been joining a growing cast that also included Taraji P. Henson playing Richard Pryor’s mother; Eddie Murphy as Pryor’s father; Oprah Winfrey as Pryor’s grandmother; Kate Hudson as Jennifer Lee Pryor, Richard Pryor’s 4th wife; and, of course, Mike Epps in the starring role, as Richard Pryor.

Weinstein didn’t share details – specifically whether the same actors were all still attached to star in the film; especially Taraji P. Henson, who is busier than she was when she first signed on to appear in the film (the project has been in the works for several years).

Production was set to begin this year – in March specifically – as soon as Daniels wrapped up the second season of his hit Fox series “Empire.” That’s obviously didn’t happen.

The biopic has been in development for quite some time. Before Daniels came on board in 2014, the news was that the project had changed hands yet again, as Forest Whitaker took over as producer (this came shortly after the huge success of “Fruitvale Station” at the Sundance Film Festival the year before – a film he produced). It was also the same time that The Weinstein Company (TWC), who produced and distributed Daniels’ previous film, the blockbuster drama “The Butler,” came on board to back the project as well. Before that, Marlon Wayans was attached to star, and Chris Rock was to produce alongside Adam Sandler. When Daniels and TWC took over, Wayans was apparently still in the mix, although it was reported that Michael B. Jordan and Eddie Murphy were both on the short list as well.

Mike Epps would eventually get the part.

The project is being made with input from Pryor’s widow, Jennifer Lee Pryor; so, I suppose we could say that this won’t be one of those troubled biopics made without the approval/blessing of the subject’s family. Although, if there’s suddenly some objection from someone we don’t know of yet, I won’t be surprised, given recent biopic project hold-ups.

So don’t expect the completed film until some time in late 2017, or even beyond; unless it’s suddenly fast-tracked.

Below, watch the press conference on the announcement of the TWC/Jay Z/Spike TV docuseries on Kalief Browder, which took place this morning. The mention of the Richard Pryor biopic comes at around the 29:35 mark, if you want to skip ahead.

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