For years, Steven Spielberg has been trying to make a movie about the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and today, he’s one step closer to that, uh, dream, as Universal has optioned Jonathan Eig‘s biography King: A Life, and set none other than Chris Rock to direct the film.
Spielberg is taking a backseat here, as he’ll simply executive produce rather than direct, but seeing as this will be Rock’s first drama — and a high-pressure one at that — I fully expect Spielberg to serve as a mentor of sorts to Rock throughout the course of this shoot.
That’s not to say that Rock couldn’t handle this meaty assignment on his own, because, of course, he can. I was a big fan of his work on Top Five, both in front of and behind the camera. But if Spielberg is offering a filmmaker some helpful advice, no one should take that lightly, whether it’s Rock, a first-time director, or Clint Eastwood himself.
In addition to directing, Rock will produce the untitled MLK movie with Amblin Partners and Spielberg’s frequent collaborator Kristie Macosko Krieger. Universal executive Ryan Jones will oversee the project on behalf of the studio.
Eig’s book has apparently been called the definitive biography of King, using new information obtained from interviews as well as the FBI to paint an astounding portrait of the late civil rights icon. The author describes King as a “courageous but emotionally troubled individual who demanded peaceful protest while grappling with his own frailties and a government that hunted him,” so, clearly, Rock and Spielberg are looking to tell an honest account of King’s life, warts and all.
There’s no casting yet, as it’s still early in the development process, but expect every major Black actor in Hollywood to chase this one, as King is as coveted a role as any.
Earlier this year, Rock performed the live Netflix special Chris Rock: Selective Outrage, in which he addressed being slapped by Will Smith at the Oscars, and later this year, he’ll be seen alongside Colman Domingo in Rustin, a movie about another civil rights activist. Rock’s additional directing credits include Head of State (2003) and I Think I Love My Wife (2007). He’s represented by CAA and Untitled Entertainment, and Deadline broke the news.