Richard Pryor Lives! (Played by Marlon Wayans)

pryorwayans
Richard Pryor (circa 1970), left, and Marlon Wayans, right

While Flickgrrl is not generally a huge fan of biopics, she makes an exception in the case of writer/director Bill Condon, who made the resonant Gods and Monsters (about horrormeister James Whale), Kinsey (about the mid-20th century American sexologist) and Dreamgirls (a musical suggeted by the careers of Berry Gordy, The Supremes and Marvin Gaye). Condon, who elicited such a terrific -- and Oscar nominated-- performance from Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls, had hoped to cast the funnyman as the late comic Richard Pryor (a huge influence on Murphy's standup comedy). When the filmmaker and star could not come to terms, Condon cast Marlon Wayans, youngest of the talented brood of ten, and a funnyman who, like Pryor, has what LA Times reporter Geoff Boucher calls both art-house and outhouse cred (i.e., Requiem for a Dream and White Chicks.) Flickgrrl likes Wayans' crack  that Bill Cosby was the Martin Luther King of comedy and Pryor the Malcolm X. Still, if Flickgrrl was casting director the role would have gone not to Murphy but to Don Cheadle, who, unlike the solidly-built Wayans, is wiry and wiry like Pryor.

Who would you cast? What are the instances when biopics work? For me, too many are like VH-1 "Behind the Music" episodes with the ritual meteoric first act, burnout second act and either death or resurrection in the third act. Your thoughts?

As some may remember, Pryor made the fascinating 1986 autobiography Jo Jo Dancer, This is Your Life Calling, with its unsparing look at the kid born not in a trunk but a brothel.

Continue Reading