Chris Rock is set to take the director’s chair for an upcoming biopic on civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., with acclaimed filmmaker Steven Spielberg on board as the executive producer. Universal Pictures has secured the movie rights for “King: A Life,” a bestselling biography penned by Jonathan Eig, released in May this year. This project promises to offer a fresh and candid perspective on the life of Martin Luther King Jr., drawing from recently declassified FBI documentation and aiming to present a more nuanced portrait of the iconic figure.
Despite gaining fame as a stand-up comedian and actor, this biopic is not Chris Rock’s directorial debut. He first ventured into directing two decades ago with the 2003 political satire “Head Of State,” a film he also starred in and wrote. He later directed episodes of his own sitcom, “Everybody Hates Chris,” based on his childhood experiences. Rock’s directorial credits extend to feature films like “Top Five” and “I Think I Love My Wife,” as well as comedy specials, including his own and one for Amy Schumer. He also directed the music video for the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Hump De Bump.”
Interestingly, Chris Rock recently appeared in “Rustin,” a film closely linked to Martin Luther King Jr., directed by Broadway legend George C. Wolfe. The movie unveils the story behind the 1963 March On Washington, the historic event where King delivered his iconic “I have a dream” speech. In Rustin, Chris Rock portrays NAACP chief Roy Wilkins, a prominent figure in the civil rights movement and one of the key organizers of the march. Colman Domingo leads the cast as Bayard Rustin, another pivotal figure in this historical event.
Rock’s latest directorial endeavor comes about a year and a half after an incident that propelled him to global notoriety. At the 2022 Oscars, he was infamously slapped by Will Smith on stage. The altercation arose after Rock made a bald joke about Jada Pinkett Smith, who had shaved her head due to alopecia. While the incident caused immediate controversy, both Smith and Rock have since taken steps toward reconciliation.
In his Netflix special, “Selective Outrage,” released in March, Chris Rock humorously addressed the incident. He emphasized the physical discrepancy between himself and Will Smith, noting that they were not of the same stature and joking about the roles they’ve played in movies. Smith played Muhammad Ali, while Rock humorously declared that he always wore a sweater, even during open-heart surgery scenes.
Despite the Oscars incident, Chris Rock continues to thrive in the entertainment industry, now poised to direct a Martin Luther King Jr. biopic that promises to provide a fresh and revealing look at the civil rights leader’s life and legacy.
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Derek Chan – Editor