The film, which chronicles the complex life of the late comedian, activist and author, is due to wind up production in the coming weeks in Los Angeles. Gaines and his team have amassed over 300 hours of archival footage of Gregory, who died on Aug. 19, including footage shot since last year. The producers are in early discussions with distributors.
Gaines had been working Gregory and his family on the project with the Gregory’s son Christian on board as an executive producer. Gaines and Valerie Edwards are producing through their Cinemation banner, alongside Michele Farinola. The other exec producers include Luke Taylor, Matthew Helderman and Patrick DePeters through Buffalo 8 and Chad Troutwine.
“Dick Gregory is one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th and 21st Centuries,” Gaines said. “I say ‘is’ because he is still present to me, like he is to so many who admired his wit, intellect, jokes and wisdom. Telling his story and working with his son Christian to honor his legacy is as meaningful to me and my team as the short time we spent with Dick Gregory himself.”
Christian Gregory noted that his father was omitted during the “In Memoriam” segment of the Emmy Awards that aired Sept. 17 — the same weekend of his funeral.
Popular on Variety
“Although it is a highly disrespectful omission, I am certain of the fact my father would have had some colorful remarks to say about it before hurrying back to the hard work of fighting for justice and uplifting humanity,” he added. “I am especially proud of the work that Andre has been doing to tell his story. I know Dick Gregory was proud to be a part of the film before he passed.”
Gregory was the first black standup comic to perform in major white nightclubs, paving the way for Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock. At the height of his career in the 1960s, Gregory abandoned that career for the civil rights movement, supporting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Medgar Evers. He also became a health and spiritual advocate and motivational speaker.
Gregory also wrote “Murder in Memphis” which analyzed the 1968 assassination of King.” His most recent book is “Defining Moments in Black History: Reading Between the Lines.”
Producers plan to launch international sales at the American Film Market, which starts Oct. 31 in Santa Monica, Calif.
“Dick Gregory has been an integral part of every major American historical event since the 1950s, but he unfortunately has not always been given credit where it is due, especially in Hollywood,” Edwards said. “Our film will change that by finally telling the truth, and reintroducing Dick Gregory and his legacy to a new generation.”
Buffalo 8 produced the Netflix Original Film “Rodney King.” Gaines’ credits include the “Bill Nye: Science Guy” documentary and “Black Samurai” on Starz.