Oprah’s Take on Selma movie

Oprah tells Annie Lee Cooper’s  story in the  Selma movie and gave ET a  sneak peak  at the making of anticipated blockbuster.

The  Selma movie  will open wide on Jan. 9. with limited release on Christmas day, right in time for Oscar nominations.  Directed by Ava DuVernay, the film is being produced by Oprah Winfrey, Plan B (Brad Pitt’s company) and Cloud Eight Films’ Christian Colson.

Oprah Winfrey is starring as Annie Lee Cooper, a visible leader among the Civil Rights protesters in Selma who tried to register to vote and was unfairly denied by the sheriff. The film is shooting in Atlanta,  Montgomery and Selma, Ala.

The film recaps Martin Luther King Jr’s  struggle to secure voting rights for minorities during the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery that led to the passing of the Voting Rights Act. The film’s release will celebrate the 50th anniversary of that enactment.

“Selma” centers on King himself, who improbably has never been the lead subject in a major feature film before. (He’s played by British-born actor David Oyelowo.) It comes from DuVernay, an Angeleno indie filmmaker known not for big-budget biopics or historical epics but for gritty movies about the black community.

Written  by Ava DuVernay and Paul Webb, with Ava DuVernay directing, “Selma” is a tightly focused story about King during the critical three months when he organized a trio of marches through the segregated South. The protests, which began in response to the killing of voting rights activist Jimmie Lee Jackson, led to a cascading series of events: the “Bloody Sunday” violence, the tactical restraint of “Turnaround Tuesday” and the eventual march to Montgomery that turned the tide of the civil rights movement and resulted in passage of the Voting Rights Act.

DuVernay decided to concentrate on the in-the-trenches strategy followed by King and leaders from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and other groups rather than take a top-down government view. (An earlier Webb-written version of the story featured President Lyndon B. Johnson, here peripheral, as a far more central character). Both writers wanted to avoid a traditional biopic.

“I didn’t want to approach Dr. King as a cradle-to-grave story; that’s a big life,” DuVernay said. “My guide was the truth and facts of what happened each day and how each great, difficult choice led to the next great, difficult choice.”

Gardner realized that could be seen as a risky path — most movies about such outsized personalities seek a larger scale — but said she believed it served the material. “I feel like there should be a dozen movies about Dr. King,” she said. “But why not start with the one that feels vitally representative of what he stood for?”

The film stars David Oyelowo as King, Tom Wilkinson as Lyndon Baines Johnson, Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King and Andre Holland as Andrew Young.