Loose Lips

Marion Barry Wants to Release a Biopic About His Life Before HBO Does

Heads up, Tinseltown: Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry is looking for someone to tell his story in celluloid. The mayor-for-life told LL earlier this week that he's in a race against time to get a film about his life made.

Dedicated Barry watchers will remember that HBO Films is already working on a Barry biopic. Unhappy about how he thinks he'll be portrayed in the HBO movie, Barry says he wants someone else to release a film version more to his liking first.

“At one point I was trying to kill it," Barry says  of the HBO movie. "But I’m going another route now, because I'm going to sell my movie rights in the next two or three months."

Barry says he turned against the HBO project after having dinner with John Ridley, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of 12 Years a Slave who was attached to the project with Spike Lee as the director. Barry says he was unhappy with how Ridley planned to portray his arrest at the Vista Hotel for smoking crack.

"I told him right then and there, you're on the wrong track," Barry says. "You're going to sensationalize something that's serious."

(What kind of account of the Vista arrest would Barry approve of? Look no further than his upcoming autobiography, which calls it "the night of embarrassment.")

Barry's schedule might not suggest much time for frenzied filmmaking, with the councilmember headed up to New York City in June to promote his book. But HBO doesn't seem to be in a rush, either. Two-and-a-half years after it was first reported, the project is still in development, according to an HBO rep.

Still, HBO has one advantage over Barry: It's already found a screenwriter. According to the HBO rep, District noir novelist George Pelecanos, who's also written episodes of The Wire and Treme, has joined the biopic's screenwriting team.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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