Forest Whitaker

Having won an Oscar for portraying one historical leader, Forest Whitaker is preparing to tackle another. Only while The Last King of Scotland‘s Idi Amin was a ruthless dictator, Memphis‘ Martin Luther King Jr. was, well, Martin Luther King Jr.

Paul Greengrass is directing the Scott Rudin-produced film, which is now going the indie route after being dropped by Universal a couple years back. Hit the jump to get the details.

Memphis has been brewing for a few years now, but has had trouble gaining traction. Universal pulled out in 2011 due in part to scheduling and financing issues. The disapproval of the King estate didn’t seem to have helped matters, either; the family was reportedly against Greengrass’ film because it paints a picture of the King that isn’t entirely flattering. They are currently developing an unrelated project with DreamWorks.

Greengrass and Rudin then moved on to another fact-based drama, Captain Phillips, before circling back to Memphis and deciding to make it as an indie. While no start date or release date has been announced yet, Memphis looks likely to be Greengrass’ next directorial effort. According to a source who spoke with TheWrap, Greengrass will take the same “docu-style” approach he used in United 93.

Greengrass’ script for Memphis portrays King toward the end of his life as he struggles with his personal life, including the breakdown of his marriage, and faces fears about the future of America and his own career. Meanwhile, he’s planning what turns out to be his final protest in Memphis. It was while there that the civil rights leader was shot and killed by James Earl Ray in 1968.

Whitaker recently wrapped another historical drama, Lee Daniels’ The Butler. (Coincidentally, that film also features MLK, as a supporting character played by True Blood‘s Nelsan Ellis.) In addition, he has Scott Cooper’s Out of the Furnace and the musical Black Nativity coming out later this year. He was last seen in Kim Jee-woon’s The Last Stand with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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