For his next project, “Precious” director Lee Daniels will tell the story of this culminating moment for the American civil rights movement in “Selma.” He told MTV in an exclusive interview yesterday that the cast is firming up. The key roles of President Lyndon Baines Johnson and Ralph Abernathy are set. Alabama Governor George Wallace remains unconfirmed, but an offer is out and a deal is waiting to be finalized.
“Liam Neeson’s playing Johnson,” Daniels told us. The former U.S. president, who was sworn into office after John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, wasn’t present for the march of course, but he was an instrumental figure in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the National Voting Rights Act of 1965.
As for Ralph Abernathy, who worked closely with King Jr. in planning the Selma marches — there were three, though only the last one made it to Montgomery — Daniels is particularly pleased with that casting. “We have Cedric the Entertainer, who is going to be [Ralph] Abernathy. He is a really good choice, so we’re excited about that.”
For awhile it was speculated that Robert De Niro might be up for the Wallace role. In yesterday’s interview, Daniels reiterated his previous comments to us that he’d like to work with the veteran actor, but it sounds the Wallace role might not be that collaboration.
Neeson and Cedric join an already star-studded cast. Hugh Jackman will play racist Selma sheriff Jim Clark, a prominent figure within the story. The King Jr. role belongs to “The Last King of Scotland” supporting star David Oyelowo, as announced last week. Lenny Kravitz also told MTV recently that he’ll take the role of civil rights figure Andrew Young. Still to be cast among the main players are Wallace and Wilson Baker, the Selma sheriff who replaced Clark in 1966.
Stay tuned to MTV.com for more on “Selma” later today as we look back on this 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic march.
What do you think of the casting news? Who should play Wallace? Baker?