Why did the studio drop the controversial film?
Plans to finance and distribute Memphis, the Paul Greengrass–directed film about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s last days, have been dropped by Universal Pictures. According to Deadline.com, the studio halted movement on the project, which they picked up last month. Originally, Universal planned for the film to go into production in June with hopes for a MLK holiday weekend release.
The studio explained that the standstill was due to “timing and scheduling,” saying it was uncertain whether the film could be finished and ready for release by January. But reporter Mike Fleming says he’s heard the biggest reason for the stop is because of pressure from the MLK estate. The family allegedly said it would go public with its displeasure, which could have jeopardized ticket sales. “Andrew Young, former confidante of the civil rights leader,” wrote Fleming in Deadline.com, “reached out to Universal personally to register his objections.” Similar reasons were given for the stall of Precious director Lee Daniels’s MLK biopic, Selma, which was headed into production with financing from the Weinstein Company.
Seems the biggest factor in the estate’s protest of Greengrass' film is its controversial direction, which could also mean problems with the Ronald Harwood–scripted MLK film at DreamWorks (which paid for the rights to use Dr. King's copyrighted speeches). Greengrass and producer Scott Rudin are reportedly seeking another financier to back the film.