After failing to get his Martin Luther King/Civil Rights drama Selma off the ground a couple of years back, Lee Daniels is trying again to get another MLK drama going. This time he is going to adapt Orders to Kill, a book which takes an alternate view on the assassination of King in a similar way to Oliver Stone’s infamous and controversial JFK.
Orders to Kill is set to feature Hugh Jackman in the role of William Pepper, an attorney who tried for years to bring a case to court that stated James Earl Ray was not the assassin who murdered Martin Luther King. His thesis was that the assassination was a conspiracy inside the US government who were getting concerned over his protestations about the Vietnam War and saw to it that he was silenced.
The film, like JFK, will follow Pepper’s journey to bring his case to the public, interviewing members of the government, insiders and potential perpetrators in the alleged conspiracy. The book (written by Pepper himself) has been already been adapted and is set up at Millennium films, who are currently looking for a distributor.
Martin Luther King adaptations are very, very difficult to get to the screen due to his estate being very cagey about any representation of the character on film. Lee Daniels’ Selma (which would have also starred Jackman) and Paul Greengrass‘ Memphis were both cancelled due to the projects featuring scenes which didn’t show King in a very angelic light, including him having extra marital affairs.
Orders to Kill is looking to be much more friendly with the King estate, as his son Dexter agrees strongly with Pepper’s theories and actually took part in the 1999 trial headed up by the attorney.
Whether or not this will come to pass remains to be seen but I remain particularly skeptical about any project which holds itself as the next JFK, is directed by someone like Lee Daniels and deals with the life of one of the most well loved figures in American history.
If Daniels can restrain his style and tone down the melodrama then I think this could be something quite special. But I can’t deny that I would have rather seen Paul Greengrass’ version of the story come to pass, although with that being said, I do think an African-American filmmaker should handle the story.
As of now, I remain undecided on what to think of Orders to Kill, but there is no doubt that it will be an interesting film to see, if it happens at all.
Source: LA Times