MLK casting: Who should play Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?

Jeffreywrightmlk_lSteven Spielberg announced this week that he will produce a big screen biopic on civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. No director or star has been announced yet, but we’re impatient, so we’re going to see if we can speed things along with some suggestions. Who do you think should play Dr. King? My top pick: Jeffrey Wright, who burst onto the national scene in 1996 playing painter Jean Michel Basquiat in Julian Schnabel’s Basquiat, and has been wowing us ever since with dazzling, transformative performances in movies like Syriana, The Manchurian Candidate, and most recently as Colin Powell in Oliver Stone’s W. He even played King once before, in the HBO movie, Boycott, in 2001, and it would be great to see this character actor get his chance to really shine in a huge, Oscar-bait role. First Runner Up: Chiwetel Ejiofor. The British actor isn’t exactly a household name — and with a name like that, he may never be — but if you’ve seen Children of Men or American Gangster, or Inside Man, you’ve seen him command the screen alongside some pretty big guns, including Denzel Washington. Like Washington, Ejiofor exudes a grace and gravitas on screen that could easily translate to a powerful portrayal of King.

Why not Will Smith? Too famous now to disappear inside the role, I fear. Plus, he’s already played Ali, and he has to save himself to play Barack Obama in 20 years. Idris Elba? The Wire star is, frankly, way too good looking. Sorry, dude. Taye Diggs? Ditto. Don Cheadle? Fantastic actor, but hard to picture him physically as King. Forest Whitaker? Again, stellar actor, but he feels like the wrong body type, too. Jamie Foxx? That just seems wrong on so many levels. But enough about me. What do you think Popwatchers? Who would you like to see take on the greatest civil rights leader in modern American history? Who could deliver that "I Have A Dream" speech and make you believe it?

addCredit(“King: Everett Collection”)

Comments (100 total) Add your comment
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  • Chichi

    He was also my first choice. And I would LOVE for Taraji P. Henson to play Mrs. King.

  • Heather

    Terence Howard?

  • CJ

    Going out on a limb…but I think Mos Def could do it. And bring a real human side to Dr. King. I’d love to see that.

  • apuluvmanjula

    How about Ving Rhames? He’s got the look down and I think he could pull off the speeches.

  • Deirdre

    This man has some great acting talent and it is his chance to shine like Jamie Foxx, chose DAVID ALLEN GRIER. I think he would add to the performance and break into serious acting at the same time, he is very multifaceted!!!
    I hope Mr. Spielberg choses him.

  • Ross1185

    CJ ur a f’ing idiot. Mos Def would prolly be the worst possible choice, next to Michael Richards. haha

  • Rachel

    MOS DEF. He is an amazing actor, in everything from Crash to House M.D. Foxx was Ray, Smith was Ali, Washington was Malcolm X…give Mos Def MLK. He’ll pull it off with flying colors, just like those other three did.

  • DW

    Robert Downey Jr. as his character from Tropic Thunder

  • Mr. Williams

    And why do we need another movie about Dr. King??? If he were alive today, King would ASHAMED of the state of Black America. Black on Black Homicide is on the rise, there are far too many single Black Mother’s raising kids (Where are the Father’s??? MIA), most young Black boys think its cool to go to jail/prison, and please don’t get me started on how Rap Music/Thug Life Ideologies/BET have destroyed Black Communities. That Boondocks episode “Return of the King” was right on TARGET. So again why do we need a movie about KING??? Nothing will never change. Although we have our first Black President, Black People STILL DON’T GET IT!!! And for the record, yes I am Black. . . I’m just venting.

    • Mo-ster

      No Mr. Williams-MLK would not be ashamed of “black homicide” he would view ANY homicide with dislike. Look man-blacks kill blacks, whites kill whites & so-on. It’s always been that way-will ALWAYS be that way. Be a realist-not an idealist with some fake vision of an utopia society.

  • Ross

    CJ ur retarded. Mos Def would be the worst choice next to Michael Richards haha

  • Ross

    Ms. Williams u are right, but the movie we can hope will put MLK’s word and spirit back into to people and make them take a look at themselves and lifestyles. And its not just black people its everyone, i see 12 year old girls dressed like sluts and little kids doing drugs more and more while they are younger. It’s society not just ine race. And by the way im white.

  • bleepbeep

    terence howard of course!

  • harry

    my vote would go for Chiwetel Ejiofor. A fellow Igbo boy!

  • Ross

    My bad, Mr. Williams*.
    Oh and by the way F*** Kanye West and anyone who thinks he’s cool or thinks he’s the best rapper alive. which he likes to believe is true.

  • Vivi

    I’m going with Mr. Ejiofor. Not only is he a fantastic actor, he’s Nigerian AND Igbo. Sold.

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