Breaking: Eddie Murphy to play Richard Pryor

02.26.09 9 years ago

AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

HitFix confirmed today that Eddie Murphy is attached to play legendary comedian Richard Pryor in the new drama “Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said?” for Oscar-winning writer and director Bill Condon.

Originally developed with The Weinstein Company, Condon and producer Mark Gordon were able to free it up in turnaround and have shopped it to different studios.  Paramount Pictures was close to securing the project, but Fox Searchlight recently stepped in after having no qualms with the film’s $25 million budget. 

Condon previously worked with the Searchlight team on “Kinsey” and Paramount was a co-financier on the $100 million hit “Dreamgirls.”  While setting up “Pryor,” he spent the past few months as executive producer of last Sunday’s 81st Academy Awards.

Murphy, who featured impersonations of Pryor in his early stand up routines and cast him in his own directorial effort, “Harlem Nights,” is said to be enthusiastic about playing his longtime idol and has dropped his usual salary requirements for the role.

The script also features prominent roles for Pryor’s four wives and Redd Foxx.  Those roles have not been cast as of yet.  Additionaly, the film’s title will likely change before release.

Pryor was a groundbreaking comedian who found success on the stage, on screen and won five Grammy Awards for his concert albums.  At that height of his career he also suffered from drug addiction and in 1980 accidentally set himself on fire while freebasing cocaine and drinking 151 proof alcohol.  This darker side of his life was chronicled in Pryor’s fictionalized biopic “Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling,” but this new film is said to depict the events more realistically.  Pryor died in 2005 at the age of 65 after suffering a heart attack and a long battle with multiple sclerosis.

Murphy, who received his first Oscar nomination for his portrayal of James “Thunder” Early” in “Dreamgirls,” has two comedies in the can for release this year, the recently retitled “Imagine That” and “A Thousand Words.”

Condon is looking to start production this summer for a 2010 release.

More on this story as it develops.

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