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Filmmaker Shaka King realized early on that the only way to get a major Hollywood studio interested in the story of Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton was to make a film that was part biopic and part genre.
His theory proved correct.
King’s Judas and the Black Messiah was quickly picked up by Warner Bros., a decision helped by an all-star cast and the backing of Black Panther director Ryan Coogler, one of the film’s producers. The movie revolves around Hampton, who led the Illinois chapter of the party, and informant William O’Neal, who played a key role in FBI leader J. Edgar Hoover’s plot to kill Hampton.
King wrote the script with Will Berson based on a story by brothers Keith and Kenny Lucas, who were the ones who conceived of the notion of bringing O’Neal into the tale.
“I realized the brilliance of couching it in this way,” King told THR‘s Pamela McClintock during a THR Presents Q&A powered by Vision Media.
The conversation with THR also featured Daniel Kalyuuya, who stars as Hampton; LaKeith Stanfield, who plays infiltrator O’Neal; and Dominique Fishback, who stars as Deborah Johnson, Hampton’s pregnant fiancee.
Kaluuya revealed that he was doing reshoots for Black Panther when Coogler approached him about portraying Hampton, who was assassinated by federal law enforcement authorities in December of 1969 after being drugged by O’Neal.
The actor says he was honored by the offer. “I felt blessed,” said Kaluuya, who has earned a best supporting actor nomination from both the Golden Globes and SAG.
Judas and the Black Messiah is produced by Coogler, Charles D. King and Shaka King. The film is presently available in cinemas and on HBO Max.
This THR Presents is brought to you by Warner Bros.; additional Q&As and other supplementary content can be viewed in THR‘s new public hub at THRPresents.HollywoodReporter.com.
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