After a major film rights auction won by MGM, black-ish creator Kenya Barris has been tapped to write and direct a biopic on arguably the funniest comedian of all-time, Richard Pryor.
It will be Barris’ directorial debut as he’s written films such as Girls Trip, Barbershop: The Next Cut, the 2019 Shaft film, the recently released The Witches as well as the upcoming Coming 2 America sequel starring Eddie Murphy. Barris is best known for his television writing and creating hit ABC comedies such as black-ish and mixed-ish. A second spinoff of the popular black-ish franchise, grown-ish airs on Freeform.
Pryor’s widow, Jennifer Lee Pryor will serve as a producer alongside Barris.
Hollywood has been wanting to make a Pryor biopic for years, even after he made a semi-autobiographical film I’m Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling in 1986. In 2016, The Weinstein Company initially had rights to a Pryor biopic with director Lee Daniels and a script from Bill Condon and Danny Strong. Comedian and actor Mike Epps had won the role to play Pryor and Oprah was to play his grandmother, who ran a brothel and raised him. Murphy was to play his father, Leroy “Buck Carter” Pryor and Kate Hudson was set to play Pryor’s widow, Jennifer. The film never made it into production.
“The way Pryor did what he did — with truth and specificity that was somehow self-aware and self-deprecating, and said with an unmatched level of vulnerability – that was the power and impact of his work,” Barris said in a statement. “Pryor had a voice that was distinctly his and, in many ways, comedy since then has been derivative of what he created. To me, this is a film about that voice, the journey that shaped it, and what it took for it to come to be.”
Pryor was the first recipient of the Mark Twain Humor prize and starred in nearly 50 films as well as sketch comedy shows such as The Richard Pryor Show and Pryor’s Place. He wrote for iconic TV shows such as Sanford and Son and The Flip Wilson Show as well as films such as Blazin’ Saddles. His comedy specials set the standard for the genre, including Richard Pryor Live on Sunset Strip and his 1982 directorial debut, Here and Now.
He earned two platinum albums, five golds and five Grammy’s during his lifetime.