Last February, it appeared as though Eddie Murphy would reunite with his “Dreamgirls” director Bill Condon to bring the life story of legendary comedian Richard Pryor on the big screen. To put it bluntly, things have changed. Condon is still moving forward with “Richard Pryor,” but Murphy is out and so are potential distributors Paramount Pictures and Fox Searchlight. Instead, HitFix can confirm that Marlon Wayans has auditioned and is now in negotiations to play the iconic entertainment figure. Additionally, the film will now be produced by Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison productions at Sony Pictures.
Marlons, who is best known for his not-so serious roles in “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” and the “Scary Movie” series, impressed producers and executives with his dramatic audition featuring two scenes directly from the film. Condon shot the screen tests similarly to the Beyonce Knowles audition for “Dreamgirls” which was later available on the movie’s DVD. Unlike Knowles however, Wayans is no newcomer to challenging material having earned raves for his work in Darren Aronofsky’s “Requiem for a Dream” and the Coen Brothers’ “The Ladykillers.”
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.
Many roles are still left to cast in the feature including Pryor’s four wives, his longtime agent and Redd Foxx, but Sandler is currently not scheduled to appear in what will be Happy Madison’s most serious film to date. However, Sandler’s longtime friend Chris Rock will join Condon, Mark Gordon and Pryor’s widow Jennifer Lee Pryor as producers.
Condon won an Oscar for his screenplay for “Gods and Monsters” and his credits includes “Kinsey,” the screenplay for “Chicago” and executive producing this past year’s celebrated Academy Awards show.
If all the deals are set, “Richard Pryor” is expected to begin production sometime this spring.