A Pam Grier biopic is in the works, and it looks like Jay Pharoah has been cast as Richard Pryor. “I watched him and heard his voice and closed my eyes and said, ‘It’s Richard,’” Grier told Deadline of meeting Pharoah while recording voices for Infinity Wars. The news comes after Grier first expressing a desire to have Pharoah play Pryor last year.
Titled Pam, the biopic is based on her 2011 memoir, Foxy: My Life in Three Acts. In the book, Grier details her life in film and activism. She also talks about her relationships with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Freddie Prinze, and Richard Pryor—whose spiraling drug use once pushed director Sidney Potier to call Grier onto the set of Stir Crazy.
“I was on my way to do Fort Apache, the Bronx in New York, and I said I would come down on my way and see if I can do anything or say anything,” Grier shared. “I get there, and he’s freebasing. I’d never seen anything like that. Holding a Bunsen burner of liquid in front of your face, while something’s in a net that looks like a rock cooking … it was just so bizarre to me. And I wanted to say, ‘Well, you know, Sidney, Richard has some fears, insecurities and they have to be addressed. Maybe like a musician he has to prepare himself, get high before he comes to the set. I don’t know. You always knew he did indulge and now you want him to stop? I don’t know how you’re gonna do that. But you’re gonna have to give him some time, help him figure out how he can prepare without that, so his career isn’t destroyed.’”
Pharoah said of the biopic, “The story is heartbreaking, raw, honest and beautiful, all rolled into one testimony.”
While a release date for Pam has yet to be announced, you can catch Pharoah in the forthcoming Unsane—a Steven Soderbergh-directed psych thriller about a woman involuntarily sent to a mental institution where she faces “her greatest fear.”
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