It’s no easy task getting a biopic made. There’s a balance filmmakers have to strike between reverence and reality. What sort of light should they paint the subject in? What aspects of their life should the movie cover? There are a countless number of ways to approach it, and whenever dealing with someone’s life story, every decision is viewed under extreme scrutiny. Such will be the case with the upcoming Richard Pryor biopic, which is based on the life of the comedian, who is set to be portrayed by Mike Epps.
Speaking with Collider, the film’s producer, Bruce Cohen, spoke about the challenges that the biopic brings with it.
“It’s one of the most brilliant scripts. Bill Condon did the initial draft and then Lee Daniels has done the rewrite and unfortunately, it’s hard to make the economics work in this landscape. It’s not a cheap movie: it’s period, it’s wide scope and it’s getting a cast together that gives you enough foreign value to let you make the movie. [That’s] the challenge. The Weinstein Company and Lee and myself and Mike Epps, who’s been attached for a while to play Richard Pryor, all of us…as badly as we wanna make the movie, we feel even a little higher obligation to the subject matter, to do it right. So, we’re not gonna do it until we can do it the right way and I hope it comes together soon because it really is a project that needs to be made.”
Given the aforementioned wide scope of this picture, and their desire to have it encompass his whole life, as opposed to just a moment in it (a la Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs movie), there’s no doubt that their take is an ambitious one.
“We are going ambitious and that is the pitfall of biopics I completely agree. This script has solved that the emotional arc of this script is so overpoweringly beautiful that it’s just one of those scripts where it’s like on what planet has this not gotten made yet. But it will, it’s going to, some way, somehow it’s going to get made.”
And of course, one of the bigger challenges is whether or not to delve into the less palatable aspects of the man in question. How much can you portray before an audience stops sympathizing altogether. Therein lies a fundamental problem in trying to form an entertaining narrative around a person. For those Richard Pryor fans, however, have no fear. They won’t be avoiding such things.
“No, we’re tackling it full on. The script is as dark, and raw, and sad, and scary in some ways but ultimately inspiring as well as a script can be. I wouldn’t say that’s really part of the problem because the financiers really they’re looking at the value of the film. They’re not concerned per se if something’s really dark, but we didn’t get any help from that. If it was a romantic comedy it would be easier to get our funding together. You know if you look at Lee Daniels’ work, if you look at my work and certainly if you look at Harvey’s work, you know these are filmmakers who do not pull punches and that’s certainly the case here.”
Given the scope and risky approach they’re taking, it’s a wonder if this is a movie that’ll ever see the light of day. But if it does, it seems like the kind of flick purists would applaud. What do you think? Do you find Cohen’s comments encouraging? let us know your thoughts down below!
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