When one thinks of stand-up comedy, and one actually knows the long tradition of the profession, Richard Pryor is often one of the first people to come to mind. Not only a legendary comic but also an acclaimed actor and writer, starring in nearly 50 movies and co-writing Blazing Saddles with Mel Brooks, a film he was also suppose to star in but his history with drugs kept the studio from insuring him. Yet, even despite those difficulties, he would go on to become one of the greatest influences of the arts, winning five Grammy Awards and being the first-ever recipient of the prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Now, it's been confirmed that Kenya Barris has signed on to write, direct and produce a biopic centered on his life. Barris had this to say in a released statement:
“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. Pryor had a voice that was distinctly his and, in many ways, comedy since then has been derivative of what he created. To me, this is a film about that voice, the journey that shaped it, and what it took for it to come to be.”
This follows the rights to his life story being won by MGM in a heated auction. To help with authenticity, Pryor's widow, Jennifer Lee Pryor, will co-produce the film under her Tarnished Angel banner alongside Barris (Via his Khalabo Ink Society) and Tory Metzger for Levantine Films. Everyone contributed statements to this film's announcement. Jennifer Lee Pryor had this to say:
“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."
And MGM’s Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy released the following joint statement:
“The NY Times has said of Richard Pryor, he was an ‘iconoclastic standup comedian who transcended barriers of race and brought a biting, irreverent humor into America’s living rooms, movie houses, clubs and concert halls.’ We couldn’t agree more,”
Finally, Adam Rosenberg will serve as an executive producer. Hopefully the film does the comedian's legacy proud, capturing it with the same raw honesty that Pryor himself gave in his stand-up that transcended and surpassed racial boundaries. Stay tuned!