HBO is developing a biopic of pioneering African-American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux that has Tyler Perry on board to star.
Craig Zadan and Neil Meron are shepherding the project for Sony Pictures TV through their Storyline Entertainment banner. Perry is set to executive produce with Zadan and Meron but does not plan to direct.
Charles Murray, an alum of “Sons of Anarchy” and History’s redo of “Roots,” is penning the script. It’s based on the 2007 biography “Oscar Micheaux: The Great and Only: The Life of America’s First Black Filmmaker” by film historian Patrick McGilligan.
“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Tyler Perry to bring Oscar Micheaux’s inspiring and trailblazing life story to HBO,” said Zadan. Added Meron: “There are so many parallels between the groundbreaking work that Micheaux pioneered and Perry’s achievements as an artist that it feels like a natural fit.”
A novelist turned director, Micheaux raised the money to produce the film adaptation of his 1917 book “The Homesteader” after rejecting an option offer from another company when they refused to let him direct.
Micheaux is believed to have helmed more than 40 features between 1919 and 1948, working outside the confines of Hollywood in the face of discrimination against an African-American entrepreneur.
Early on, Micheaux tackled the problem of distribution by personally driving prints of his films to black communities around the country, where they played to segregated audiences. His films largely featured all-black casts and were an effort to counter racial stereotypes with humanistic portrayals of black life. His notable works included 1920’s “Within Our Gates,” a response to D.W. Griffith’s epic “Birth of a Nation”; 1931’s “The Exile,” his first sound picture; 1938’s “Swing!” and 1940’s “The Notorious Elinor Lee.” Many of Micheaux’s films have been lost to history given the lack of preservation and the decomposition of film stock of the era.
Micheaux died in 1951 at the age of 67. The Directors Guild of America recognized his contributions to film with a posthumous award for directorial achievement in 1986.
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SOURCE: Variety – Cynthia Littleton