Lee Daniels and Hugh Jackman failed to get a civil-rights picture off the ground when their passion project, "Selma," fell apart two years ago. Now they're taking another crack at that subject, exploring the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination with a new film that takes an unconventional view of King's murder.
Daniels ("Precious") will direct and Jackman will star in "Orders to Kill," a story that aims to tell an alternative version of the King shooting, according to a person familiar with the project who was not authorized to talk about it publicly. Millennium Films will produce and finance the film, which is being shopped around to distributors in Hollywood. A spokeswoman for Millennium did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The film will tell the story of William Pepper (Jackman), a controversial attorney and activist who for decades has argued that convicted killer James Earl Ray, who recanted his confession and died arguing his innocence, didn't shoot MLK.
The picture will follow Pepper over the years as he wages a one-man campaign, interviewing witnesses and building support for his theory that other interests, including those from the U.S. government, were behind the 1968 Memphis killing. (In a nutshell, Pepper, who is still alive, argues that government interests wanted King dead because of his opposition to the Vietnam War.) It will be based on Pepper's book, which has been adapted for the screen by Hollywood screenwriter Hanna Weg.
The movie has echoes of "JFK," Oliver Stone's film from 20 years ago that also argued for a broad conspiracy behind the assassination of a 1960s icon. Though controversial, the film was a huge hit and won two Oscars.
"Orders" is a second chance of sorts for Daniels and Jackman, who in 2010 got together for the development project "Selma," about the famous Alabama civil-rights march led by King. In that project, Jackman was to play a racist sheriff who led the charge against King. The film was scrapped after it hit financing troubles.