Bill Condon’s Richard Pryor biopic has been a super smokin’ hot project in Hollywood the last couple years, with Eddie Murphy long rumored to bring the fiery comedian back into the land of the living. On celluloid, at least.
However, the project — currently titled “Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said?” — hit what many deemed to be a troubling snag a little while back when Murphy abandoned the project over “creative differences” and Condon and the producers tapped Marlon Wayans, illustrious star of “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” “Little Man,” “Dungeons & Dragons” and “White Chicks,” to take over the much-coveted role.
The ever-respectable Los Angeles Times has printed an intriguing interview with Wayans which attempts to placate the fearful and explain why this decision is not the travesty is may appear to be on paper. It’s an insightful read and I strongly urge you to check it out.
As crazy as it may seem, I’m honestly thrilled to see the film being taken out of Eddie Murphy’s hands. The man, while absurdly talented, is too long in the tooth for the role and, more importantly, infamous for exercising his clout in reshaping projects to fit his own sensibilities. Though he worked well with Condon in 2006’s “Dreamgirls,” at this point he’s just too erratic and difficult to risk what could potentially be a fascinating prestige flick on. It pains me to write that, but his current status in the film world speaks volumes.
I do, however, think that Wayans is a potentially brilliant casting coup. Anyone who viewed Darren Aronofsky’s “Requiem for a Dream” knows the dude has some dramatic chops and it’ll be far easier for him to pull the chameleon act and burrow into Pryor’s skin than a superstar A-lister like Murphy. Even better, Wayans is probably hungrier and more eager to show audiences what he can really do, more likely to capture the fearlessness and reckless energy that Pryor so masterfully emanated. I wouldn’t be surprised if, assuming the material is strong — probably a very good chance, judging from Condon’s track record — the former “Scary Movie” funny-man finds himself in Oscar-territory. After all, if Jim Carrey, Bill Murray, Adam Sandler and Jamie Foxx could pull off the transition from raunchy frat-house comedies into powerful dramatic acting, there’s no reason Wayans can’t.
Hopefully, Condon’s script avoids the numerous increasingly-tiresome clichés cluttering up the majority of modern biopics and finds a way to both do honorable service to Pryor’s life as well as deliver a film with some real, compelling ideas behind it. As much as I enjoyed “Ray” and “Walk the Line,” they lacked the desired scrappiness and bite that makes the genre’s best such fascinating cinematic experiences.
We’ll just have to wait and see, I suppose. With a fall shooting schedule mapped out, and a release marked for sometime in 2011 (I’d put money on November or December), “Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said?” is going to be one of the more exciting films to track on the not-so-distant horizon.
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Follow Cam Smith on Twitter at http://twitter.com/camspcepisodes.