Universal Pictures has acquired screen rights to “I Am a Man,” a book Hampton Sides is writing about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis and the manhunt for killer James Earl Ray.
Deal for book rights and scripting fees reached seven figures.
“Black Hawk Down” author Mark Bowden will write the script, and Stuber/Parent’s Scott Stuber and Mary Parent will produce with Marc Platt. All three producers are U-based.
Sides set the book up at Doubleday, based on an 11-page proposal that lays out a blueprint for what the author calls “a compressed historical thriller.”
Sides grew up in Memphis, and the local culture will figure prominently.
King came to Memphis to lead a protest of garbage workers and made the garbage strike part of his Poor People’s Campaign. After calling off a first march because of violence, he returned, despite a premonition he would be killed in Memphis. He was shot on a hotel balcony by Ray, who was caught two months later, just before fleeing to Rhodesia.
Sides had been bumping into the King story for years. His father’s law firm repped King during the garbage strike, a friend’s father was the neurosurgeon who unsuccessfully operated on King’s brain, and Ray’s lawyer was best friends with the author’s father.
Sides is the bestselling author of “Ghost Soldiers” and “Blood and Thunder: The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West,” the latter of which is being developed by DreamWorks.
Bowden’s Pablo Escobar manhunt tale, “Killing Pablo,” is being turned into a movie by Joe Carnahan with Javier Bardem. Scott Rudin is developing Bowden’s Iran hostage crisis book “Guests of the Ayatollah,” and Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer set Bowden to adapt “Jihadists in Paradise,” his Atlantic Monthly feature about the manhunt for Islamic terrorists in the Philippines. He also just inked to pen DreamWorks’ untitled actioner about a moon expedition to star Jake Gyllenhaal and be directed by Doug Liman.