Respect

Release Date:  8/14/20
Genre:  Biography
Studio(s):  MGM
Director:  Liesl Tommy
Cast:  Jennifer Hudson (Aretha Franklin)

Story:  The life story of legendary R&B singer, Aretha Franklin.

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Details as of 8/16/2018:  In January, it was announced by record executive Clive Davis, at his annual pre-GRAMMY party in NYC, that Jennifer Hudson had signed on to portray Aretha Franklin in the biopic based on her memoir Aretha: From These Roots.  He also announced that Franklin actually handpicked Hudson to play her.  The movie will center around Aretha’s journey to discover her true voice and who she wanted to be as an artist.  Currently the film doesn’t have a release date and there are no plans to speed the production in the wake of Aretha’s passing

Sadly on this date, Franklin’s publicist confirmed that the legend died of advance pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type.  Jennifer Hudson paid tribute to the Queen of Soul and took to Instagram to remember the legendary artist.  Hudson Instagrammed a video of herself listening to Franklin’s cover of The Beatles’ “Let It Be.”  “I have no words, so I will let the Queen say it!” Hudson wrote. “But I will say while teaching me about your life, u taught me so much about life and schooled me in mine. I will never forget those teachings #riparethafranklin.”  Sources:  People, ET Online, TMZ.  Photo Source:  ET Online.

Cleopatra Jones Reboot

Status:  Optioned
Release Date:  TBA
Genre:  Drama
Rating:  Unknown
Director:  TBA
Studio(s):   Warner Brothers
Running time:  Unknown
Cast:  TBA

Story:   Warner Bros is reviving Cleopatra Jones, the 1973 blaxploitation female empowerment film that starred Tamara Dobson as the undercover government agent who used the day job of supermodel as her cover and an excuse to travel to exotic places. The studio has set Misha Green to write the script and produce a film that will present the heroine very much as the female answer to James Bond. Those comparisons were made when the original hit film was released, partly because Jones was so adept at martial arts and drove a Corvette Stingray fully equipped with automatic weapons. In the original, she faced off against a drug kingpin named Mommy (Shelley Winter), with a mission to destroy the poppy plants that were fueling drugs devastating the inner city.  Source:  Deadline.  Photo Source:  The Hollywood Reporter.

Angela Davis Biopic

ANGELA DAVIS BIOPIC #1
(Status:  Announced)

According to Deadline in May 2016, an unauthorized Angela Davis Biopic By ‘Shameless’ Scribe LaToya Morgan was acquired by The Firm.  The untitled script will be produced by The Firm’s film division president Robbie Brenner along with Jeff Kwatinetz and Kevin McKeon.  Angela Davis, accused of conspiracy in the murder of a federal judge, became the first woman on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list, and an iconic symbol of an era. After fleeing from authorities, she is eventually captured and must exonerate herself from an all-white jury during the racially turbulent early 1970’s.

Robbie Brenner stated, “Although the events of this film take place three decades ago, Angela Davis’s story holds a strong relevance in today’s political and social landscape, and we are excited and honored to tell it along with LaToya.”  Source:  Deadline.

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ANGELA DAVIS BIOPIC #2
(Status:  In Development)

Variety reported on 8/9/16 that Codeblack Films, a division of Lionsgate aimed at bringing positive representations of African Americans to the screen, has acquired the movie rights to Angela Davis: An Autobiography with plans to develop and produce an authorized Angela Davis biopic film.  The untitled film will be produced by Nina Yang Bongiovi, whose credits include Fruitvale Station and Dope.  Sidra Smith, a producer on the 2012 documentary Free Angela and All Political Prisoners, and Codeblack Enterprises CEO Jeff Clanagan will also serve as producers on the project.

As of 3/22/17, Forest Whitaker has joined Codeblack Films’ untitled Angela Davis biopic movie project as an executive producer, according to Variety.

Angela Davis was a leader of the U.S. Communist party in the 1960s.  In 1969, she was dismissed from her role as acting assistant professor in the philosophy department at UCLA when her political allegiances became known.  In 1970, she was charged with murder, kidnapping and criminal conspiracy for her suspected involvement in a courtroom shootout.  She was eventually acquitted of all charges.  She later returned to academia and wrote books on feminism and race.  Ms. Davis will serve as executive producer along with her niece, Eisa Davis, who is also writing the script.  Source(s):  Variety; The Guardian.  Photo Source:  Storify.

All This Love:  The DeBarge Story

(Status: Announced)

​As of 5/2/17, a biopic about the DeBarge family is in the works. TV One is prepping the project, titled All This Love: The DeBarge Family Story.  Set to air Fall 2018, the film will focus on the story the DeBarge family, one of the most popular family groups in American music history, as told by the family matriarch, Etterline Abney.

Robert Louis DeBarge, Sr. was a soldier who served in the United States Armed forces and was of French descent. He met Etterlene Abney, who is African American, in Detroit, Michigan in the early 1950s. They married in 1953 and stayed together for 21 years before divorcing in 1974.  Robert and Etterlene had 10 children: Etterlene ‘Bunny’ DeBarge, Robert Louis ‘Bobby’ DeBarge, Jr. (deceased), Thomas Keith ‘Tommy’ DeBarge, William Randall ‘Randy’ DeBarge, Mark ‘Marty’ DeBarge, Eldra Patrick ‘El’ DeBarge, James DeBarge, Jonathan Arthur ‘Chico’ DeBarge, Carol ‘Peaches’ DeBarge, Darrell ‘Young’ DeBarge.  The children claimed that their father sexually abused several of them, which the father denied.

The network’s description of the biopic states:

“After her marriage with Robert DeBarge, a handsome white soldier, goes through a turbulent unraveling, Etterline Abney relocates her children to Illinois. The children begin singing in her brother’s church. Two of the brothers record a demo tape that, with the help of Jermaine Jackson, falls into the hands of Motown founder Berry Gordy and the rest is history.  All This Love is a story whose tale is woven with music, fame, success, romance, sibling rivalry, drugs and bonded by the glue of Abney’s love that strains to keep them all together.”

 Source:  Lipstick Alley.  Photo Source:  Wikipedia.

Oscar Micheaux: Negro Pioneer

(Status:  Script:  6/30/17)

Tyler Perry is set to Play Pioneering Filmmaker Oscar Micheaux in HBO Biopic.  Craig Zadan and Neil Meron are shepherding the project for Sony Pictures TV through their Storyline Entertainment banner. Perry will executive produce along with Zadan and Meron but does not plan to direct.  The script will be based on the 2007 biography Oscar Micheaux: The Great and Only: The Life of America’s First Black Filmmaker by film historian Patrick McGilligan.

Novelist turned director, Micheaux raised the money to produce the film adaptation of his 1917 book “The Homesteader” after rejecting an option offer from another company when they refused to let him direct.  Micheaux is believed to have helmed more than 40 features between 1919 and 1948, working outside the confines of Hollywood in the face of discrimination against an African-American entrepreneur.  Early on, Micheaux tackled the problem of distribution by personally driving prints of his films to black communities around the country, where they played to segregated audiences. His films largely featured all-black casts and were an effort to counter racial stereotypes with humanistic portrayals of black life. His notable works included 1920’s Within Our Gates, a response to D.W. Griffith’s epic Birth of a Nation; 1931’s The Exile, his first sound picture; 1938’s Swing! and 1940’s The Notorious Elinor Lee. Many of Micheaux’s films have been lost to history given the lack of preservation and the decomposition of film stock of the era.

Micheaux died in 1951 at the age of 67. The Directors Guild of America recognized his contributions to film with a posthumous award for directorial achievement in 1986.  Source:  Variety.

Marcus Garvey Biopic

(Status:  Post Production as of 5/22/17; expected release date 11/9/18)

According to Shadow & Act, on 4/20/17, a Marcus Garvey biopic was filming starring Kevin Navayne.  Steven Anderson makes his feature film directing debut with a cast that also includes Dennis Haysbert (as Garvey’s father, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Sr.) and Janet Hubert (as his mother, Sarah Jane Richards), as well as Tobin Bell, Dan Gauither, Rhashan Stone, and Christian Campbell.  Financing was provided by private investors.

Mr. Navayne is originally from Jamaica, as was the character he’s portraying on film.  The legend of Marcus Garvey looms large in Black history, especially to those involved in the Pan-African movement. Garvey’s call for Black self-empowerment is still discussed and debated about to this day. His story has stood the test of time, from his childhood in Jamaica, his activities in the United States, his dreams of a Pan African movement and Back to Africa movement, and his ultimate demise at the hands of the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover.  Garvey’s life and his movement’s effect maintained for years after his death. He influenced people like Malcolm X, groups like the Nation of Islam and many others.   Sources:  Shadow & Act; The Source.

Queen, The

(Status:  Optioned as of 1/25/17)

Lee Daniels is re-teaming with Pam Oas Williams to develop The Queen, a feature based on the 2013 article from Slate’s executive editor Josh Levin titled The Welfare Queen.  Daniels, who previously worked with Williams on The Butler, will produce through his Lee Daniels Entertainment alongside Pam Williams Productions.

Levin’s piece tells the true story of Linda Taylor, the original “welfare queen,” famously described by Ronald Reagan as the Cadillac-driving “woman in Chicago” who got rich by manipulating the public aid system. Taylor, Levin reveals, was far more complicated and compelling than a simple thief; she was a sort of Talented Mr. Ripley–if Ripley were a real-life femme fatale in 1970s Chicago.

The story describes the way that one of the most gifted criminals in modern times transformed the way we think about race and poverty, and how the crime that made her infamous quite literally allowed her to get away with murder.  Source:  The Tracking Board.