Black-ish creator Kenya Barris has signed on to write, direct and produce a Richard Pryor biopic for MGM, which recently won a heated auction for the rights to the legendary comedian’s life story.
Considered one of the greatest comics who ever lived, Pryor’s raw on-stage storytelling transformed the entire comedy scene and influenced generations of artists. He also starred in nearly 50 movies, won five Grammy Awards, and was the first-ever recipient of the prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
“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. Jennifer Lee Pryor added:
“Having had a front row seat to much of Richard’s life, I am excited that the mystery of his genius is finally going to be explored, and Kenya Barris is the perfect person to do it. Richard and Kenya are creative brothers”.
In addition to the acclaimed Black-ish, Barris also created spin-offs Mixed-ish and Grown-ish as well as the recent Netflix series #BlackAF. His typical mix of comedy with raw, real-life issues should make him a great fit for a Pryor biopic.
This isn’t actually the first time Pryor’s story has been told on the big screen though. Back in 1986, Pryor himself directed Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling, which followed a popular comedian and his trouble with cocaine and was considered to be heavily lifted from Pryor’s own life. That was the only narrative film he ever directed.
A Pryor biopic was almost made back in 2016, when Lee Daniels (The Butler) was prepping a project that would have starred Mike Epps as Pryor, with Eddie Murphy as his father and Oprah Winfrey as his grandmother. However, the project never got off the ground.
Still, if that sort of cast can be assembled for a Pryor biopic four years ago, there’s plenty of reason to hope an equally great one can be put together for this project.
It will be really interesting to see Barris work on a feature, and also how he assembles the biopic. Someone as unique as Pryor deserves better than one of those cookie-cutter biopics that often don’t take many risks, so hopefully the final product is something as funny, honest and personal as the man himself.