DreamWorks taps Harwood to pen script

DreamWorks has tapped playwright-screenwriter Ronald Harwood to pen its Martin Luther King Jr. biopic.

Studio acquired the life rights of the slain civil rights leader in May, with Steven Spielberg, Suzanne de Passe and Madison Jones producing (Variety, May 19). Project marks the first bigscreen film to be authorized by King’s estate and gives DreamWorks access to King’s intellectual property — including his “I Have a Dream” speech.Harwood, who won an Oscar for penning “The Pianist,” was vague about how he intends to approach the project: “I will not say anything about my approach to this screenplay except to say what I always say: ‘I will do my utmost to be true to truth.’?”

Harwood is known for a careerlong fascination with themes surrounding race, conscience and moral choices as well as history.

His credits also include “The Dresser,” which lifted the curtain on backstage life in a WWII theater, and “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” which he adapted.

The South Africa native has also written extensively about apartheid, including the film “Mandela,” penned while the future South African leader was still in prison, and an adaptation of Alan Paton’s classic “Cry the Beloved Country.” He has also penned two anti-apartheid novels and two such plays (“Tramway Road,” “Another Time”).

His theater credits include a 2008 stage revival of “Taking Sides,” which was paired with his newest play, “Collaboration,” about the conduct of composer Richard Strauss during the Third Reich.

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