Richard Pryor Rides Again
As he produces his own biopic
17 May 2005
Trailblazing funny man Richard Pryor is about to become the subject
of a new, as-yet untitled biopic, directed by one of his old collaborators.
The man himself is to be played by fellow stand up comic Mike
Epps (Next Friday, Resident Evil: Apocalypse) in a film that attempts
to sum up the manic genius of Pryor's long career.
Pryor’s life is one that could have been waiting to get
on to the big screen. >From starting out his act as an imitation
of Bill Cosby, clean cut and cheerful; to playing to sell-out
venues with acts full of disillusioned street talk, Pryor revolutionised
comedy and paved a way for later comics like Mike Epps, Chris
Rock and the whole of Def Comedy Jam (but don't blame him). His
wisecracking style proved so popular Pryor became the first African
American to play to mixed audiences.
He famously received 3rd degree burns all over his body in the
mid 80’s while apparently freebasing, and his career declined
as drugs and drink took their toll. In the early 90’s he
was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, effectively ending his
career as his performances were very physical.
Epps, who is next due in the less glamorous role of a sewer worker
opposite Cedric The Entertainer in The Honeymooners said of his
idol, “It's hard to describe what he means to me or any
stand up comic. You could say he’s paid the dues for everything
we do up there."
The inspiration for all of the top African American comics working
today, his fans are vociferous in their praise of Pryor and in
acknowledging their debt to him, and a biopic of some sort has
been in the works for some time.
Epps was personally chosen for the role by Pryor, who wanted a
stand-up comic but not an established star. His wife Jennifer
said, ""Richard and I saw Mike's standup, and there
is a dangerous edge, a Richard-esque quality about him."
Walter Hill, who directed Pryor in Brewster’s Millions,
one of Pryor's biggest cinema successes, will direct the Caleb
Kane script – but there's no word on whether he'll play
himself in the film.
Pryor and his wife Jennifer will be acting as producers, and if
we're lucky we’ll see a fitting tribute to the comedy legend,
something every bit as funny and shocking as Pryor's comedy was.
We'll keep you up to date as we learn more.