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MGM has launched development on a Sammy Davis Jr. biopic with Lena Waithe and Rishi Rajani producing through their Hillman Grad banner, along with Sight Unseen’s Julia Lebedev and Eddie Vaisman.

The untitled project is based on the 1996 biography “Sammy Davis Jr.: My Father,” written by Davis’ daughter Tracey Davis and Dolores A. Barclay. David Matthews is writing the script.

Davis began his career in the entertainment business as a child and became a sensation following a nightclub performance at Ciro’s in West Hollywood after the 1951 Academy Awards. He starred with the rest of the Rat Pack — Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford — in the film “Ocean’s 11,” was the host of “The Sammy Davis Jr. Show” on television and recorded the number one song “The Candy Man.” He was widely criticized for endorsing President Richard Nixon in 1972. Davis passed away in 1990 at the age of 64.

“I am thrilled to know my father’s life, both private and public, will be brought to the big screen with this team of storytellers,” Tracey Davis said. “He and my mother May Britt took on the world, choosing love and compassion over hatred and bigotry, and I am a product of that decision. My father was an extraordinary man, who experienced tremendous joys and fought tough battles throughout his years coming up in the industry. His was not an easy road, but, like he did in all aspects of his life, he gave it everything he had. We plan to do the same with this film.”

Waithe produced Radha Blank’s comedy “The 40-Year-Old Version,” won an Emmy for writing on “Master of None,” created Showtime’s “The Chi” and wrote the drama “Queen & Slim.”

“Sammy Davis Jr. was one of the most impactful and influential figures in America,” Waithe said. “As Black culture continues to define popular culture, Sammy’s immense mark is undeniable. His story as a generational talent trying to make his way as a father, husband, and a Black man in America is one I have long wanted to help tell. I’m honored to be a part of this great team bringing such an important story to our community.”

PBS aired the documentary “Sammy Davis, Jr: I’ve Gotta Be Me” last year as part of its American Masters series. “I’ve Got to be Me” was directed by Sam Pollard with commentary by Billy Crystal, Norman Lear and Jerry Lewis.
The news about the project was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.