Denzel Washington will helm the life story of entertainer Sammy Davis Jr.
Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment have optioned screen rights to Wil Haygood’s book “In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis Jr.”
Pic will be produced by Imagine’s Brian Grazer and Washington, who is not planning to act in the film.
Alliance came about after Washington brought Grazer the book. The pair are lensing “Tru Blu,” a Grazer-produced crime drama directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Washington and Benicio Del Toro. Universal will release that pic June 3.
Haygood will write the first draft of the script based on his sprawling book that traces Davis’ career back to age 4, when he began singing and dancing with his father on the vaudeville circuit.
While Davis helped shatter race barriers in Las Vegas, he aroused the ire of racists by dating white actresses including Kim Novak, hindering his film career. He was also a Rat Pack member who rubbed elbows with everyone from Frank Sinatra to President Kennedy to Martin Luther King Jr.
“I became very interested in the life of Sammy as it was introduced to me by Denzel,” Grazer said. “There are so many dimensions to him that make his story interesting.”
Package was put together by ICM and Universal Pictures vice chairman of worldwide production Scott Stuber.
Since making his directing debut on “Antwone Fisher,” Washington has looked for a follow-up to squeeze in between acting jobs.
Washington is weighing offers on “The Great Debators” at Miramax and the Alcon-based “Brothers in Arms,” a David Chisolm-scripted account of the all-black 761st tank battalion in World War II, based on a book by basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anthony Walton.
The Sammy Davis Jr. project is the first one Washington was proactive in setting up specifically to direct.
“In Black and White” becomes the second Davis project in the works. Producer David Permut has been working with the singer’s widow, Altovise Davis, on a film based on his memoir “Yes I Can.” Eddie Griffin has been attached to star.