May 19, 2009 | 4:50 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
The relationship between Blacks and Jews had a foundational impact on the civil rights movement. So it makes sense that when Martin Luther King Jr.‘s family finally decided to hand over intellectual property rights to Hollywood, Tinseltown’s most high-minded Jew would helm the transfer.
After a long lobby, Steven Spielberg and longtime associate Stacey Snider, CEO of DreamWorks have acquired “life rights” to the Martin Luther King Jr. estate. The acquisition makes available all of King’s intellectual property, including writings and speeches he famously copyrighted, and then left to the charge of his family who squabbled over them. The transaction will mark the first time Hollywood has had legal rights to use the 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech on the silver screen.
Now, more than four decades after King uttered his most famous words, the underpinnings of the Black-Jewish relationship re-emerge to tell his story. Spielberg will partner with Suzanne de Passe, a seasoned guru in Black entertainment and Madison Jones, to produce the first Hollywood biopic of one of the most influential men in American history.
A King film has been a longtime dream for Spielberg and DreamWorks CEO and co-chairman Stacey Snider, who has been working feverishly on acquiring the rights since exiting Paramount Pictures and setting up a solo enterprise.
King’s son Dexter, who is chairman and CEO of the King Estate, has been embroiled in a legal tussle with his siblings Bernice King and Martin Luther King III over who controls the personal papers of their late mother, Coretta Scott King, among other things.
“In trying to tackle such an ambitious project, the question we had to ask ourselves is, ‘Why now?’�” Snider said. “The answer lies in MLK’s own words: ‘All progress is precarious.’ With every step forward, new obstacles emerge and we must never forget that his life and his teachings continue to challenge us every day to stand up to hatred and inequality.”
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