- Aug 28, 2015
Updating this list as I do once a year, at the end of each year (I started it 3 years ago) to keep you all up-to-date on where each project stands going into the new year...
There are more than 50 biopics on the lives of black public figures in the works, based on the S&A archives - the majority of them first announced in the last 3 - 4 years, and, unfortunately, so few of them will actually, eventually see the light of day.
Some of these figures even have more than 1 film project in the works that will center on their lives; a few have/have had as many as 4 or 5.
It's not necessarily mind-boggling, but, with each new project announcement, one can't help but be skeptical that they all will receive the necessary backing, and be pushed all the way through production.
Based on our reporting, I'd say that the hold-up for most of them is financial. Some have already been scripted, and have actors attached, but financiers apparently aren't convinced enough to invest in them.
Others have rights hurdles to get past; and still some face challenges/objections from family members, estates, or other powerful, influential voices.
A few have already been produced, but are without distribution (at least, stateside distribution); another few reportedly have the financial backing necessary to go into production, and are scheduled to do so soon, but as we've seen happen with at least one of those *sure-things*, anything can happen leading up to previously-announced filming start dates, that send the project back into so-called "development hell."
Some of the names have seen successful feature documentaries made about their lives (or documentaries currently in development), but progress on feature scripted narratives that were once announced, isn't certain in every case.
On-screen depictions of a few of these names will happen in films centered on other real-life figures (in most cases, white people); essentially, they'll be supporting characters in someone else's story.
And on, and on, and on...
But then a question worth asking is whether we really need, or rather if there's a large enough audience for films on every single one of these men and women.
I'm much less interested in what I call birth-to-death stories, and would prefer to see filmmakers tackle specific periods of a subject's life - maybe cover a period of years in which the person being profiled was at their career peak, or went through some tragic, life-changing experience. Or maybe even select a single interesting week, or a day in that person's life, and tell us about it.
It's a fool's errand trying to capture an entire life in 2 hours, and those traditional, conventional biopics tend to be rather boring. At least I think so.
Below you'll find the full list of the all the biopic projects we know of, with new additions announced since the last time I updated this list a year ago, and a sentence updating you on what we know of each one as of today. And as has happened with each update, a few of them finally moved on to production, and have premiere dates set (those I removed from the list, like Nate Parker's Nat Turner film, which premieres at the Sundance Film Festival next month, as well as Don Cheadle's Miles Davis project, which already premiered, and is set for a USA theatrical run starting next spring). And there are others that have seen some movement since my last update. However, the majority are still "in Limbo":