I had been sitting back wondering whether Ava DuVernay's “Selma” would be ready in time for this year's upcoming awards season. Paramount already has a couple of things to play with, from Jason Reitman's “Men, Women & Children” to Christopher Nolan's “Interstellar.” Well, add another, as DuVernay's film has just been slated for a Christmas Day limited release.
The film, which is being produced by Oprah Winfrey and Brad Pitt's Plan B shingle, is still shooting in Atlanta, Georgia and Montgomery and Selma, Alabama, but I guess there is enough faith that the editing will come together in time. It of course tells the story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s struggle to secure voting rights for all during the heated civil rights movement of the 1960s. This led to President Lyndon Johnson signing the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. The film will go wide on Jan. 9 of next year, capitalizing on the 50th anniversary of the event and just a week shy of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 16.
David Oyelowo stars in the film as Dr. King. He was recently seen in “Lee Daniels' The Butler” and also has a role in “Interstellar.” Tom Wilkinson, meanwhile, plays Johnson, and the rest of the film features a pretty packed cast. Also starring are Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, Andre Holland as Andrew Young, Omar J. Dorsey as James Orange, Alessandro Nivola as John Doar, Dylan Baker as J. Edgar Hoover, Giovanni Ribisi as Lee White, Tessa Thompson as Diane Nash, Colman Domingo as Ralph Abernathy, Stephen Root as Al Lingo, Jeremy Strong as James Reeb, Tim Roth as George Wallace and Winfrey as Annie Lee Cooper.
That's quite the ensemble for DuVernay to be wrangling after her intimate award-winning drama “Middle of Nowhere,” but this project, it seems, has been moving along swimmingly. Obviously the question with a latter-year release becomes: is it an awards season player? It very well may be. Pitt's Plan B is coming off a big Best Picture win for “12 Years a Slave” and has been making great choices with material for years. Oyelowo is on the verge of breaking out in a huge way and, most of all, “Selma” will be very different from everything else Paramount has up its sleeve this year. The studio was able to wrangle the diametrically opposed “Nebraska” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” into Best Picture shape last year. This is a game they're good at.
Stay tuned for more as it happens, but for now, put “Selma” on the 2014 calendar.