Lee Daniels back on board to direct Richard Pryor biopic produced by Jay Z

  • The Butler film-maker initially dropped out due to scheduling conflicts
  • Mike Epps, Oprah Winfrey, Eddie Murphy and Kate Hudson to star in film

Lee Daniels is once again back on board to direct a biopic about the life of the late standup comedian and actor Richard Pryor, this time with Jay Z on board to produce.

Daniels had initially signed on to helm the project, titled Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said, marking his first film since 2013’s The Butler, but dropped out in May due to scheduling conflicts as show-runner for Fox’s hit TV series Empire. The drama, which was initially supposed to begin filming this month, is now slated to shoot in early 2017, according to Rolling Stone.

As previously announced, Mike Epps will play Pryor, with The Butler star Oprah Winfrey portraying his brothel-running grandmother. Rounding out the cast are Eddie Murphy as Pryor’s abusive father and Kate Hudson, who’ll be portraying the performer’s widow Jennifer Lee Pryor.

The script is by Bill Condon (Dreamgirls), and the film takes it title from Pryor’s live album of the same name, released in 1975.

Harvey Weinstein made the announcement of Daniels’s return to the project and Jay Z’s involvement at a Thursday press conference tied to the Spike TV six-part documentary series Time: The Kalief Browder Story, which he and Jay Z are producing.

“I can tell you that Jay is going to produce the Richard Pryor movie with Lee Daniels directing,” Weinstein confirmed. “Each time, I think you’ll see these projects be something that hit the cultural zeitgeist. One day we’ll find something really commercial now to do. But not now.”

“You don’t get more commercial [than Pryor],” Jay Z interjected. “His story is an American story. You’ll understand how many lives he’s touched, from every single comedian to rappers like Biggie Smalls.”

Time: The Kalief Browder Story, set to premiere in January, tells the story of the teenager from the Bronx who was imprisoned on Rikers Island for three years without conviction and later killed himself after his release.

Jay Z called Browder a “modern-day prophet” when discussing the miniseries with the press. “Our prophets come in many different shapes, forms or mediums,” he said. “This young man just by the fact that he brought all of us here today lets you know how powerful of a soul he was.”

“Some of my prophets go in tragedy, Martin Luther King ends tragically but what comes from it, the life and the next iteration and the lives saved and how this man has moved culture forward is incredible,” he added.

Jay Z also touched upon police brutality during the conference, stressing that he has “compassion” for “both sides”.

The rapper and mogul last spoke out about the police killings of black men in the US in his song Spiritual, released in July after the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. He also recently declared the war on drugs an “epic fail” in an animated four-minute op-ed video made with artist Molly Crabapple for the New York Times.


Nigel M Smith

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Eddie Murphy set to join Lee Daniels' biopic of Richard Pryor
Murphy, who once directed Richard Pryor in Harlem Nights, will play the father of standup comedian, who is to be played by Mike Epps

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

16, Mar, 2015 @11:32 AM

Obituary: Richard Pryor
Obituary: Legendary stand-up comic and actor, who satirised the racial taboos of America.

Duncan Campbell

12, Dec, 2005 @12:05 AM

Article image
Eddie Murphy set to play Richard Pryor in new biopic

Murphy said to be willing to waive his usual fee to play his idol in new film from Oscar-winning writer Bill Condon, who co-produced Sunday night's revamped Academy Awards show

Ben Child

27, Feb, 2009 @11:16 AM

Article image
Richard Pryor and Marlon Brando were lovers, Pryor's widow confirms
Jennifer Lee Pryor, who was twice married to the comedian, corroborates claims by music producer Quincy Jones, noting that ‘it was the 70s’ and ‘drugs were still good’

Gwilym Mumford

08, Feb, 2018 @10:17 AM

Article image
The United States vs Billie Holiday review – Lee Daniels' misguided biopic | Peter Bradshaw's film of the week
Lee Daniels’ bizarre decision to root this account of the singer’s late years in supposition about her romance with a federal agent cheapens her courage

Peter Bradshaw

19, Feb, 2021 @5:00 PM

Article image
Lee Daniels the latest director linked with long-awaited Janis Joplin biopic
Cameras set to roll in 2013, a decade and three directors after plans to bring singer's story to the big screen were first mooted

Ben Child

17, Oct, 2012 @10:54 AM

Article image
Lee Daniels on 'whiny' #OscarsSoWhite controversy: 'Stop complaining'
Precious film-maker, the second black director to have ever been nominated for an Oscar, criticised those who felt offended by past two years of all-white nominees

Guardian film

30, Dec, 2016 @7:44 PM

Article image
Richard Pryor – the patron saint of standup as truth-telling
An epiphany in Las Vegas moved the comedian’s act on to a whole new plane – and his influence lives on with the likes of Chris Rock, Doug Stanhope and Russell Brand

Brian Logan

11, Jan, 2015 @6:00 PM

Article image
Is Lee Daniels' rags-to-riches R&B drama Star better than Empire?
The show shares similarities with the ratings hit but a more intriguing character arc and a hint of darker issues suggests it might be the savvier choice

Dave Schilling

15, Dec, 2016 @8:45 PM

Article image
Comedy gold: Richard Pryor Live in Concert
Leo Benedictus: Making childhood beatings, heart attacks, abuse and prison sentences funny is an achievement – making them this funny takes genius

Leo Benedictus

04, Apr, 2012 @11:29 AM