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Old January 20 2014, 05:25 PM   #1
the G-man
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Stone's ML King pic dropped over adultery, other, script issues

Martin Luther King Jr. biopic dropped by Oliver Stone after script with adultery rejected
  • Oliver Stone announced on Friday he is no longer involved with an upcoming movie about the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. after the studio rejected his script.

    "Sad news. My MLK project involvement has ended. I did an extensive rewrite of the script, but the producers won't go with it," the director wrote on Twitter.

    "The script dealt w/ issues of adultery, conflicts within the movement, and King's spiritual transformation into a higher, more radical being," Stone continued. "I'm told the estate & the 'respectable' black community that guard King's reputation won't approve it. They suffocate the man & the truth. I wish you could see the film I would've made. I fear if 'they' ever make it, it'll be just another commemoration of the March on Washington. Martin, I grieve for you. You are still a great inspiration for your fellow Americans--but, thank God, not a saint."

Interesting news. Stone is always a vital filmmaker even when he's (and some would say especially when he's) at his most controversial.

One gets the impression that the studio wanted a "Disneyfied" version of the MLK story.

And how does his family get to control what is and isn't said about King, any more than the family of any other historical or political figure?
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Old January 20 2014, 06:27 PM   #2
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Re: Stone's ML King pic dropped over adultery, other, script issues

^ They own the text to his speeches, so I guess no studio wants to devote the resources necessary to make an MLK film if their actor can't say "I have a dream". One would think those four words wouldn't be enough for a copyright-infringement lawsuit, but more than a line or two might, I guess. They could always write new speeches in King's style, I suppose, but, same objection. And while King was a public figure, maybe the fact that he wasn't an elected official means that his estate can claim ownership over his speeches in a way the Nixon estate, say, can't for his.

Anyone can make a movie about the Beatles, for example, but that doesn't mean they can have their characters practice "Yesterday" without securing the rights to the song.

The 80's TV show Sledge Hammer! did a whole ep on Elvis impersonators, but didn't have the budget to license any actual Elvis songs, so the actors could only mumble Elvis-like until the big finally, when Sledge gets to sing... "Battle Hymn of the Republic".



It does seem a shame. Stone doesn't always make great films, but he's a hell of a filmmaker.


ETA: Stone is hardly the first person to have come across this problem. An MLK biopic would seem like a no-brainer, and the tension with King's estate always thwarts such efforts. They only want to see a whitewashed (sorry) version of his life, and no filmmaker with the cred to get funding for such a project wants to make a hagiography, nor do they want the estate badmouthing their movie and accusing them of insensitivity if they do make one.

It's worth noting, however, that King appears as one of several important characters in the pretty-good HBO film Boycott.

Last edited by Gaith; January 20 2014 at 06:53 PM.
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Old January 21 2014, 12:38 AM   #3
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Re: Stone's ML King pic dropped over adultery, other, script issues

I don't get why people feel like if he was adulterous it would in any way diminish his accomplishments.

I suppose if we can't make a movie showing Christopher Colombus as a sadistic gold hungry mass murderer, it's unthinkable to show an actual great man as anything less than perfect.
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Old January 21 2014, 12:49 AM   #4
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Re: Stone's ML King pic dropped over adultery, other, script issues

In this case, the "people" are King's direct descendants and family. They presumably feel that their murdered family member's personal indiscretions aren't really anyone's business, far less the millions that would see a movie like this. It's not a helpful attitude when trying to make the best film possible, but it's understandable.
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Old January 21 2014, 02:46 AM   #5
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Re: Stone's ML King pic dropped over adultery, other, script issues

I've I'd been in a position to reject JFK, I'd have rejected it. The reason is given right in the OP article:

OP article wrote:
According to Huffington Post, his 1991 drama "JFK" was criticized for taking "factual liberties" with the assassination of John F. Kennedy, suggesting that a conspiracy to kill the president involved his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson.
It's impossible to know whether the rejection of the King film has more merit than Stone would have us believe, without—wait for it—reading the script.

It would seem that Andrew Young, as quoted in the OP article, suggests that the problem lies more with how King's life would have been dramatized than with actually portraying him as a flawed human being.

OP article wrote:
"It's not wrong if the warts are there," Young explained. "But we had the most powerful and understanding wives in history: Coretta, my wife Jean, and Ralph Abernathy's wife Juanita. These women were more dedicated and enthusiastic in pushing us into these struggles than anybody, and the inference Coretta might have been upset about Martin being gone so much or them having marital troubles, it's just not true."
That King had no marital troubles could be an embellishment, but that doesn't mean that Stone's script was free of embellishments of its own.

Given Stone's track record, I can't give Stone the full benefit of the doubt.
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Old January 21 2014, 04:05 AM   #6
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Re: Stone's ML King pic dropped over adultery, other, script issues

^ In Stone's defense, I'm not sure he ever intended JFK to be a particularly historically accurate movie. He's described it as a fictional response to the Warren Report, though I don't know if he said that from the start, and I do think it was a mistake not to include a disclaimer at the beginning, as he subsequently did with the magnificent Nixon.

Still, your point is entirely valid. We on the outside don't know. It does seem to me, though, that though we're due for a really excellent film on King by now, and JFK also. (Nothing against Bruce Greenwood in Thirteen Days, but that was only a sliver of his career.)
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Old January 31 2014, 03:20 AM   #7
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Re: Stone's ML King pic dropped over adultery, other, script issues

Who do they have in mind to direct this movie, if not Stone?
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Old January 31 2014, 09:02 AM   #8
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Re: Stone's ML King pic dropped over adultery, other, script issues

Wow, what a shitty public domain law we have that the fucking "I have a dream" speech is owned by someone
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Old January 31 2014, 01:35 PM   #9
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Re: Stone's ML King pic dropped over adultery, other, script issues

Yoda wrote: View Post
Wow, what a shitty public domain law we have that the fucking "I have a dream" speech is owned by someone
Speeches made by US politicians while they are in office cannot be copyrighted--they are automatically public domain. Same goes for any government employee producing a work in the course of their job that would otherwise be copyrightable.

But King wasn't a government employee, so his works--speeches, letters, etc.--are all copyrighted.

One could make a more general argument that copyright terms are too long, and I would agree, but I don't think a particular speech should be somehow stripped of its copyright just because it's iconic. It's basically punishing popularity.
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Old January 31 2014, 08:37 PM   #10
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Re: Stone's ML King pic dropped over adultery, other, script issues

I think with the King speech it's not the popularity which I'd be seeking to punish. It's the obvious historical importance. Or maybe even just the political nature of it. I'm not sure how you'd codify that.

General copyright terms I'd cut from death plus seventy down to... twenty years from creation for a written work, and maybe thirty for a performance.
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Old March 10 2014, 12:56 AM   #11
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Re: Stone's ML King pic dropped over adultery, other, script issues

The Wire creator David Simon is now reported developing a six-episode miniseries on MLK for HBO. Says The AV Club: "The project, like so many MLK concepts, has been in the works for several years under the stewardship of Oprah Winfrey—whose drive to make something King-related also extends to the Paramount feature Selma, which she recently signed on to produce." Makes me wonder if the same actor would play King in both works.

Sounds very promising to me. HBO's John Adams proved that a number of one-hour episodes can be the perfect format for telling a whole historical life on screen, and Simon's credentials are impeccable. As much as I'd like to see Stone's movie, it's easy to picture this being even better. And HBO doesn't seem like the type of studio to be cowed by censoring requests from any family estate...
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Old March 10 2014, 03:36 AM   #12
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Re: Stone's ML King pic dropped over adultery, other, script issues

I would like to see the faults and accomplishments of MLK, and let people figure it out themselves. Censoring won't make the project a strong one.
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Old March 10 2014, 03:39 AM   #13
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Re: Stone's ML King pic dropped over adultery, other, script issues

I see a stupid little typo in my post now, the first word no less, which I can't fix now.
CorporalCaptain wrote: View Post
I've I'd been
It should be:
If I'd been
Blind spots to one's own mistakes are weird.
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Old March 10 2014, 09:47 AM   #14
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Re: Stone's ML King pic dropped over adultery, other, script issues

JirinPanthosa wrote: View Post
I don't get why people feel like if he was adulterous it would in any way diminish his accomplishments.

I suppose if we can't make a movie showing Christopher Colombus as a sadistic gold hungry mass murderer, it's unthinkable to show an actual great man as anything less than perfect.
I think the world is ready to retire historical heroes and show historical figures as complex human beings. Just look at recent TV shows.
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Old March 11 2014, 10:34 PM   #15
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Re: Stone's ML King pic dropped over adultery, other, script issues

True, though mainstream Hollywood is making a lot less docudramas then they used to. When Stone spoke at the Washington DC Newseum last October, he commented that funding and studio approval was getting far more difficult to make not just Martin Luther King's bio, but movies in the vein of W., NIXON and even JFK. The first two movies were failures in proportion to cost. If even Stone has trouble getting them off the ground, he might be wise to pitch his next projects to HBO...
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