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Richard Pryor (1940-2005)

  1. Cleavon Little, Blazing Saddles, 1973.  The Western send-up’s creator  and star Mel Brooks could not get any studio interested in starring Pryor, due to his badass stand-up act - and his drugs. He remained one of the five writers - and starred, the following year, in the awful Adios Amigos Western, with and for auteur Fred Williamson. Others said that the writer-director-star Mel Brooks, wanted one star only. Himself.  Oh, it’s good to be the boss
  2. Gregory Hines,History of the World - Part One,1981. Writer-director-star (again) Mel Brooks’ first thought for Josephus was Pryor But he never forgaveBrooks’ Blazing betrayal.
  3. Eddie Murphy,48 Hrs, 1981. Three years earlier, Clint Eastwood was keen on playing thejailbird, then went behind bars to Escape From Alcatraz, 1979. Director Walter Hill suggested Gregory Hines; unavailable. Next Reggie notions were: Pryror, Howard E Rollins Jr and a young Denzel Washington.
 Eddie was bursting for a movie. "I was just in the right place at the right time and said the right thing. Andhad a charmingsmile.I reallylucked out." Although Paramount studio chief Michael Eisner tried to fire him after three weeks!Take: $60m. Murphy's salary: $200,000.  But $7m for the sequel. And top billing!
  4. Gilda Radner, Hanky Panky, 1982. Gene Wilder said that Pryor's    cocaine abuse made him unpleasant to be around, so their intended third teaming became a first for Gene and Gilda - who fellmadly in love and wed in St Paul de Vence, France, two years later. (She died of ovarian cancer in 1989). Although never close, Wilder and Pryor still made two more films together.
  5. Eddie Murphy, Trading Places, 1983. First due for Pryor and Gene Wilder as Black & White.Take: $81m. Murphy's salary: $350,000.  Eddie eventually played Pryor’s adopted son when directing the abysmal Harlem Nights, 1989.
  6. Jackie Gleason, The Sting II, 1983.One of abunch of films aimed to keep him at Universal at a $lm a pop.
  7. Gregory Hines, The Cotton Clube, 1984. Joshua Evans, producer Robert Evans' 11-year-old, should have produced. Hegave good advice. "If you use Pryor it'll be just another Richard Pryor movie."  Plus, he was too pricey . Hines worked so hard on Evans, "he actually got angry...I danced on his coffee table to describe the potential of my character.Wasn't as if I scratched hisfurniture. I wasn't wearing taps.Ijustshowed himmy act.I really wanted that part."
  8. Howard Mandell, A Fine Mess, 1986. Apt title for Blake Edwards' re-hashofLaurel & Hardy's 1932 Oscar-winning Music Box short - originally intended for Pryor & Reynolds, Burt Reynolds.
  9. Forrest Whitaker, Bird, 1988. Despite having "too many demons" in his life, too, Pryor wanteddirector Bob Fosse to make Joel Olianksy's script.ProducerRay Stark eventually swopped scenarios with Revenge at Clint Eastwood's suggestion.Clint (and Whitaker) got the better deal.
  10. WhoopiGoldberg, Homer and Eddie, 1989. Robin Williams as the retard and Pryor as the sick tough guy, until the sex change that ruined the climax.Whoopi couldn't produce the violence required by Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky."She promised me something and didn't deliver, so I had to adjust the ending."
  11. Denzel Washington, Malcolm X, 1992.  Spike Lee sneeered: : "Richard Pryor?!!"  Director Sidney Lumet was juggling three projects on 1982, then most controversial - leading to telephoned threats – was David Mamet’s script of Malcolm Little’s life (1925-1965). Lumet understood the sensitivities aroused by a white director handling such material, recounted biographer  Maura Spiegel. “Silll, he felt he knew the era, especially the 1940s.” (First director way back in 1968 at Fox was Stuart Rosenberg, followed over the years by Norman Jewison and Oliver Stone). Lumet wanted  Pryor to head the cast; they’d worked well  together on The Wiz in 1977. Finally, Lumet left Malcolm to Spike Lee, and made The Verdict with Paul Newman, instead.


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