Hold The Laughter: Mike Epps Says Richard Pryor Biopic Being Rewritten

Dispute between late actor/comedian's ex-wives stalled preproduction; new script will have input from his children.

Richard Pryor’s life was filled with its fair share of controversies, from his admitted drug use to his alleged bouts of adultery. So why wouldn’t a movie production on the late comedian’s life be just as rocky?

According to Mike Epps, it was. The actor/comedian, who is set to star as Pryor in the yet-untitled biopic (see “Mike Epps Compares Upcoming Richard Pryor Movie To ‘Ray’ “ ), says a dispute between Pryor’s first and second wives over his assets caused preproduction of the film to come to a standstill.

Epps added, however, that an agreement to move the film forward has just come into order. The original script will now be rewritten with additional information garnered from “Jokes My Father Never Taught Me: Life, Love, and Loss With Richard Pryor,” a recently released memoir by Pryor’s daughter Rain.

“I think the previous script, which was a great script, was based off of a lot of the knowledge that people already knew about him,” Epps explained. “It ain’t no secret that Richard Pryor got burned up [after lighting himself on fire in 1980 during a drug binge], it ain’t no secret he had all these wives, that he was abusive and on drugs. And I think we seen that a bit with [Pryor's autobiographical film] ‘JoJo Dancer [Your Life Is Calling].’ But this new script is coming from the perspective and eyes of the kids, Rain and Elizabeth, and so forth. So I think people are gonna get a whole other view of what Richard Pryor was thought of in his story.”

Epps noted Kasi Lemmons, who directed the acclaimed indie flick “Eve’s Bayou,” has now signed on to helm the project. Epps said as things reach a resolution, he’s beginning to feel much better about the film as a whole. Initially, Epps was skeptical about a Pryor film without all of his family being involved one way or another.

“It just didn’t fly right [with me],” he said. “And I’m glad it didn’t. Whenever you want to do a story about someone and don’t want to involve their kids, that ain’t right. I don’t care how good the script was, how true to [life] it was, if you gonna do a movie about someone and the kids were there, you got to make mention of them and let them participate. ‘Cause if you don’t, that’s going too much against the grain.”

The Pryor biopic is slated to begin filming sometime next year, but in the meantime Epps will have his hands full with a number of movies set for release in 2007. He will join the cast of “Resident Evil” for the third installment of the series and star in a reality-based gambling film called “The Grand.” In addition, Epps hinted he’s been in talks with frequent collaborator Ice Cube for a role in the remake of “Welcome Back, Kotter.” But nothing has been confirmed so far with Cube, according to Epps.

But first up for Epps in ’07 will most likely be “Talk to Me,” a film that’s also being directed by Lemmons. Epps remarked that the film, which will pit him alongside veteran actor Don Cheadle, is allowing him to flex his dramatic acting chops. Referencing the film’s prison-theme plot, Epps expressed dismay over how many of his peers attempt to publicize their projects with jail stints. It’s a place he said he never wants to revisit again.

“I wanna tell all the entertainers to stop getting in trouble to sell music and movies,” Epps joked. “That is some weak punk sh– that’s disrespectful to the real criminals, and you in the judicial system’s way. If you gonna get in trouble, make it natural. Stop staging sh–.”

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