"First, I'd like to thank Eddie Murphy for inexplicably deciding he didn't want to play Richard Pryor. This Oscar is as much yours as it is mine. Best of luck with NORBIT'S REVENGE."
Let's emphasize the positive here. While Eddie Murphy is a phenomenally gifted performer (the true heir to Peter Sellers - and just as mercurial), he's also forty-eight and beginning to look it. Ten years ago, he would've been terrific as Richard Pryor. Today, Bill Condon and his postproduction team would probably have to employ the digital de-aging process to make Eddie look believable as Pryor in his 1970s prime.
So I'm encouraged by HitFix's report that Marlon Wayans has been cast as the greatest stand-up comic of the twentieth century. Why? For starters, I implicitly trust Bill Condon's instincts. GODS AND MONSTERS, KINSEY, DREAMGIRLS... all were impeccably cast. Also, though he's done a lot of awful, awful movies, Wayans has turned in a few inspired performances - most notably in Darren Aronofsky's REQUIEM FOR A DREAM. He can bring it if he needs to. And since Condon evidently put him through the screen testing paces, I've a feeling Wayans is going to be eager to blow everyone away.
Initially, Condon's RICHARD PRYOR was caught up in a tug-of-war between Fox Searchlight and Paramount. Now, it's found a home at Sony under Adam Sandler's Happy Madison shingle. It's also acquired another producer (to go along with Condon, Sandler, Mark Gordon and Jennifer Lee Pryor): Chris Rock. I don't know how involved Rock will be, but it's good to know that a stand-up comic who owes so much to Pryor's trailblazing ways (figurative only) will have some sort of input in this process. There's probably only going to be one Richard Pryor biopic (not counting the fictionalized JO JO DANCER, YOUR LIFE IS CALLING), so they'd damn well better get it right the first time.
The next order of business will be the casting of Redd Foxx and Pryor's four wives. Any suggestions/guesses?