October 27, 2020
The long-awaited Richard Pryor biopic is coming! Black-ish creator Kenya Barris is set to make his directorial debut writing and producing the story on the life and career of the iconic comedian and actor who passed away at 65 in December 2005.
MGM, who recently acquired rights for the Sammy Davis, Jr. biopic, won the film rights auction for Pryor’s story. “A groundbreaking, once-in-a-lifetime talent, Richard Pryor was a masterful storyteller, a multi-talented entertainer, a comic of acerbic wit, and a survivor with no self-pity,” MGM stated. “With his raw, honest, and deeply personal approach to comedy, Pryor transformed the entire art form through his work, inspiring and influencing the generations of artists to come.”
The Pryor biopic won’t be Hollywood’s first attempt to tell the comedian’s story. In 2016, his widow Jennifer Pryor tried to make the film. Along with The Weinstein Company, Jennifer teamed up with director Lee Daniels on a script that would’ve had an all-star cast. Mike Epps was cast as Pryor; with Eddie Murphy as Pryor’s father; Oprah Winfrey as Pryor’s grandmother who raised Pryor in a brothel; and Kate Hudson as Pryor’s widow, Jennifer. Unfortunately, the film axed before it started.
Jennifer seemed to be happy with the latest direction to bring on Burris for the film.
“Having had a front-row seat to much of Richard’s life, I am excited that the mystery of his genius is finally going to be explored, and Kenya Barris is the perfect person to do it. Richard and Kenya are creative brothers.”
In addition to his stand-up career, Pryor starred in nearly 50 films, including his TV series, The Richard Pryor Show and Pryor’s Place. He also wrote for shows, including Sanford and Son and The Flip Wilson Show. The actor and comedian also earned an Emmy, five Grammys, and the first-ever recipient of the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 1998.
“Pryor had a voice that was distinctly his and, in many ways, comedy since then has been derivative of what he created,” Barris stated. “To me, this is a film about that voice, the journey that shaped it, and what it took for it to come to be.”
Producers include Barris and his Khalabo Ink Society, Jennifer Lee Pryor and her Tarnished Angel, and Tory Metzger for Levantine Films. Adam Rosenberg will be the executive producer. The film has yet to be titled.