Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic is a new a documentary by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Marina Zenovich on the legendary comedian that will debut at 8 p.m. Friday, May 31 on Showtime. Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic was also just screened at the Tribeca Film Festival.
This moving portrait of legendary comedian Richard Pryor chronicles his life from his troubled youth in Peoria, Illinois, to his meteoric rise as one of the most respected comic actors of the 20th century. Often misunderstood during the height of his celebrity, the late superstar has never been profiled this extensively. Marina Zenovich’s revealing and entertaining film lays bare the demons with which he struggled and reminds us just how daring and dangerous artistic freedom can be. The film includes interviews with Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, Mel Brooks, Quincy Jones, Lily Tomlin, Jesse Jackson.
In 2003 before his death, there was another documentary that was produced by and aired on Comedy Central titled Richard Pryor: I Ain’t Dead Yet, which as I remember was pretty good. Pryor’s widow Jennifer Lee is also currently producing a narrative biopic on Pryor directed by Forest Whitaker.
Surprisingly, besides these three efforts, there has been an endless parade of potential Richard Pryor biopics rumored to be in production, some of which I have covered here at the museum, but NONE of which have ever come to fruition. An icon as important as Richard Pryor deserves to have much more retrospective work done on his life, legacy and contributions to comedy and culture. But outside of Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling, Richard’s own “non-autobiographical” film autobiography done in 1986, nothing else of substance has been produced to commemorate his life.
Splitsider, a website that focusses on the comedy industry, did an excellent job summarizing all of the Richard Pryor movies that have been promised but never produced – http://splitsider.com/2012/10/the-richard-pryor-biopics-16-years-in-development-hell/. Here is the list:
Damon Wayans in Martin Scorsese’s Richard Pryor Biopic Live (1995-98)
Martin Scorsese was supposed to direct a movie based on Richard Pryor’s 1995 autobiography Pryor Convictions: And Other Life Sentences. Damon Wayans was cast as Pryor, with Richard Pryor and wife Jennifer Lee consulting and Rob O’Hara writing the script. The working title was Live. Filming was supposed to begin in late 1996 or early 1997…Never happened…
Eddie Griffin as Richard Pryor in a Showtime’s Pryor Offenses (2004)
In 2004, Showtime began developing a TV series, called Pryor Offenses, based around the comedian’s life with Pryor and his wife Jennifer Lee Pryor producing. Eddie Griffin was cast as Richard Pryor. It was set in modern times, following Pryor’s career breakthrough in his 30s as if it had happened in 2004. Showtime opted to not pick up the series, but aired it as a one-off special in 2007.
Mike Epps as Richard Pryor (2005-06)
Mike Epps was also supposed to play Richard. Walter Hill, who directed Pryor in Brewster’s Millions, was on board to direct at the time, from a script by Caleb Kane. Richard Pryor passed away in December of 2005, and in 2006 this project stalled after a dispute over assets between Pryor’s first and second wives. A new script was commissioned with more input from Pryor’s children, and a new director, Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou, Talk to Me) was hired. Development continued to drag on and the Richard Pryor role was recast again. MediaTakeOut posted an insulting message the Jennifer Pryor allegedly posted online, in which she claimed Richard Pryor had not wanted Epps to play him and insulted Epps’s comedy.
Eddie Murphy in Bill Condon’s Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said? (2009)
Writer/director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Kinsey) wrote a screenplay about Pryor’s life, named Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said? after Pryor’s classic 1975 comedy album, and began shopping it around to studios. Although Eddie Murphy was supposed to play Pryor, he stated that “We had a couple of conversations about Richard Pryor, but I was never involved. Our conversations never got past stage one. There’s a great script out there that Bill Condon wrote.”
Chris Rock as Richard Pryor (2009)
After Eddie Murphy backed away from the project, Chris Rock was a contender to play Pryor, but Pryor’s widow Jennifer Lee, an animal rights activist, made sure Rock didn’t get the job after she was offended by a Michael Vick dog fighting joke he made on TV.
Marlon Wayans as Richard Pryor (2009-Present)
In 2009, Marlon Wayans was selected to portray Richard Pryor in Bill Condon’s biopic Is It Something I Said? The movie jumped studios to Sony, where Adam Sandler and Chris Rock signed on to produce the project via Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions. Production was set to begin in spring of 2010, but director Bill Condon signed on to helm Twilight: Breaking Dawn (Parts 1 and 2) instead. When asked when the movie would start filming in 2010, Sandler said, “It’s all being worked on. Hopefully soon.”