DreamWorks Studios Acquires Life Rights to Martin Luther King, Jr. Story

May 19, 2009

Los Angeles, CA- DreamWorks Studios has acquired the life rights to civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. from The King Estate it was announced today by Stacey Snider, CEO and Co-Chairman of DreamWorks Studios. Steven Spielberg, Suzanne de Passe and Madison Jones will produce the bio-pic of Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1929. He became a civil rights activist early in his career as a pastor. He led the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955, and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957. His pioneering efforts to deliver racial equality through civil disobedience and other non-violent means led to the March on Washington in 1963, at which he delivered his renowned “I Have a Dream” speech. In 1964 he became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end racial segregation and racial discrimination. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004. Dr. King was assassinated in April 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 39.

Dr. King copyrighted his speeches, books, and famous works during his lifetime. The DreamWorks film will be the first theatrical motion picture to be authorized by The King Estate to utilize the intellectual property of Dr. King to create the definitive portrait of his life.

“In trying to tackle such an ambitious project, the question we had to ask ourselves is, why now? The answer lies in MLK’s own words: ‘all progress is precarious.’ With every step forward, new obstacles emerge and we must never forget that his life and his teachings continue to challenge us everyday to stand up to hatred and inequality,” said Stacey Snider.

“We are all honored that the King Estate is giving us the opportunity to tell the story of these defining, historic events,” said Steven Spielberg. “It is our hope that the creative power of film and the impact of Dr. King’s life can combine to present a story of undeniable power that we can all be proud of.”

“The King Estate is committed to working very closely with Dreamworks, Suzanne de Passe and Madison Jones to create the first major motion picture on the life of my father. We hope that this will be the definitive film on his life and legacy,” said Dexter King, Chairman and CEO of the King Estate.

In a joint statement Suzanne de Passe and Madison Jones of The iDream Company said, “We are so pleased that Stacey, Steven and DreamWorks Studios have given us this opportunity to present this tense, heroic drama, we recognize their standards of integrity and quality which match our goals for this film.”

Suzanne de Passe was nominated for an Oscar for her script “Lady Sings the Blue” which she co-wrote with Terence McCloy and Chris Clark. She was an executive producer on the Emmy-nominated miniseries “Lonesome Dove,” “The Temptations,” “Small Sacrifices,” “The Jacksons: An American Dream,” and “Buffalo Girls.” De Passe began her career at Motown Records as creative assistant to Berry Gordy and eventually becoming President of Motown Productions where she executive produced the highly rated and Emmy-award winning special “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever.”

Madison Jones is an Emmy nominated producer and has been a central figure in developing and managing the intellectual property of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Animated Program for “Our Friend, Martin.” Jones has also executive produced “King: Montgomery to Memphis” for CNN and “Assassinated: Bobby Kennedy & Martin Luther King, Jr. for TBS. He Co-Produced the 2009 Commander in Chief’s Inaugural Ball with Ms. de Passe.