Kenya Barris to Direct Richard Pryor Biopic at MGM

Rebecca Rubin
·2-min read

Kenya Barris, the creator of “Black-ish” and its spinoffs “Grown-ish” and “Mixed-ish,” is directing a feature film about famed comedian Richard Pryor. MGM nabbed worldwide rights to the movie following a highly competitive sale.

Barris will write, produce and direct the yet-to-be-titled project, marking his feature film directorial debut. The movie is centering on the life and times of Pryor, one of the most influential comedians of all time. Over the course of his career, Pryor appeared in over 50 movies, headlined the series “The Richard Pryor Show” and “Pryor’s Place,” and wrote for TV shows including “Sanford and Sons.” Among his numerous accolades, Pryor was the first-ever recipient of the annual Mark Twain Humor Prize.

“The way Pryor did what he did — with truth and specificity that was somehow self-aware and self-deprecating, and said with an unmatched level of vulnerability — that was the power and impact of his work,” Barris said in a statement. “Pryor had a voice that was distinctly his and, in many ways, comedy since then has been derivative of what he created. To me, this is a film about that voice, the journey that shaped it, and what it took for it to come to be.”

In addition to Barris and his Khalabo Ink Society, the film will be produced by Jennifer Lee Pryor and her Tarnished Angel, and Tory Metzger for Levantine Films. Adam Rosenberg and Levantine’ s Renee Witt are executive producing the movie.

“Having had a front row seat to much of Richard’s life, I am excited that the mystery of his genius is finally going to be explored and Kenya Barris is the perfect person to do it. Richard and Kenya are creative brothers,” Richard Pryor’s widow Jennifer Lee Pryor said.

MGM film group chairman Michael De Luca and MGM film group president Pamela Abdy added, “The NY Times has said of Richard Pryor, he was an ‘iconoclastic standup comedian who transcended barriers of race and brought a biting, irreverent humor into America’s living rooms, movie houses, clubs and concert halls.’ We couldn’t agree more. Along with our partners Kenya, Tory, Jennifer and Adam, we are incredibly excited to share Richard’s extraordinary life with audiences the world over.”

Barris is represented by CAA, Artists First and attorney Gregg Gellman. Pryor and Levantine are represented by Hogan Lovells.

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