“I’m from the Midwest, he was from the Midwest. I grew up in crack houses, being around hoes and pimps. It’s not going to be a hard stretch for me.”
That’s what comedian Mike Epps told WTF podcast host Marc Maron when asked about taking on the long-awaited Richard Pryor biopic that’s been in development limbo for years. It’s been 10 years since the revered comedian’s death, and Pryor’s legacy and influence can still be found in pretty much every stand-up comic (whether they admit it or not) to popular shows like Key & Peele. Bringing that legacy to life on the big screen has not been an easy task, however, with the project getting bogged down by numerous re-castings and inner-family turmoil. While nothing’s been shot yet, it looks like 2016 might finally be the year that Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said? becomes an actual movie and not just an idea, with reports indicating that cameras will roll in March.
The first buzz about telling Richard Pryor’s story dates back to 1995 when it was reported that Damon Wayans would play the comedian in a movie based on Pryor’s autobiography, Pryor Convictions: And Other Life Sentences. Martin Scorsese was said to be considering taking on the directing duties, but the project fell apart and ended up as cable special instead. Talks of a proper big-screen biopic didn’t resurface until four years after Pryor’s death when it was reported in 2009 that Dreamgirls writer/director Bill Condon had written a Pryor biopic and tapped Eddie Murphy to star. Considering that Murphy is probably the biggest stand-up since Pryor, that he worked with and was friendly with him, and even did impressions of the comedian in his Raw special, the casting made a lot of sense. Additionally, Condon had already worked with Murphy on Dreamgirls and had gotten interest in the project from both Fox Searchlight and The Weinstein Company.