DreamWorks has acquired the life rights to Martin Luther King Jr. and is bringing a biopic on the slain civil rights leader to the bigscreen.
Steven Spielberg, Suzanne de Passe and Madison Jones will produce.
King, who was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis at the age of 39, copyrighted his speeches, books and famous works during his lifetime. The DreamWorks project marks the first film to be authorized by King’s estate and gives the producers the right to utilize King’s intellectual property — including his famous “I Have a Dream” speech delivered during the 1963 March on Washington — to create the definitive portrait of his life.
“We are all honored that the King Estate is giving us the opportunity to tell the story of these defining, historic events,” Spielberg said. “It is our hope that the creative power of film and the impact of Dr. King’s life can combine to present a story of undeniable power that we can all be proud of.”
A King film has been a longtime dream for Spielberg and DreamWorks CEO and co-chairman Stacey Snider, who has been working feverishly on acquiring the rights since exiting Paramount Pictures and setting up a solo enterprise.
King’s son Dexter, who is chairman and CEO of the King Estate, has been embroiled in a legal tussle with his siblings Bernice King and Martin Luther King III over who controls the personal papers of their late mother, Coretta Scott King, among other things.
King, who was the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end racial segregation and discrimination, was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.
“In trying to tackle such an ambitious project, the question we had to ask ourselves is, ‘Why now?’ ” Snider said. “The answer lies in MLK’s own words: ‘All progress is precarious.’ With every step forward, new obstacles emerge and we must never forget that his life and his teachings continue to challenge us every day to stand up to hatred and inequality.”
De Passe was an executive producer on the miniseries “Lonesome Dove.”
Jones has been a central figure in developing and managing the intellectual property of King. He also exec produced “King: Montgomery to Memphis” for CNN and “Assassinated: Bobby Kennedy & Martin Luther King, Jr.” for TBS.
Jones and de Passe co-produced the 2009 Commander in Chief’s Inaugural Ball.