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David Oyelowo: Original director didn’t want me to play MLK

Larry King NowFeb 10 '17

David Oyelowo opens up about his path to playing Martin Luther King Jr. in ‘Selma,’ including being rejected by the film’s first director, mastering Dr. King’s accent, and how Oprah helped get the movie made.

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Larry King: How did you get to be Martin Luther King and did you have difficulty having to change your accent?

David Oyelowo: Yeah, I mean, I didn’t for one second think I was just going to turn up on the set and be able to do him, a lot of work went into that. But I have to say, whether you were American or not, this was not an easy man to portray, both in terms of who he was, the significance of his part in history. Also, his accent wasn’t strictly speaking Atlanta, there was some Boston in there, and there was the Southern Baptist preacher element in there, and then there’s just the nuances of him as an individual. So anyone who is going to think about playing Dr. King is going to have to “go some,” shall we say. But I first read the scripts in 2007, and I’m a Christian, and prayed about it, and felt God tell me I was going to play this role, on July 24 ’07. And the first director who was attached rejected me, said, “David Oyelowo is not Dr. King.” And there were four other intervening directors before my dear friend Ava DuVernay directed it. I had done a film called ‘Middle of Nowhere’ with her, and I strongly advocated she direct it, and she ended up directing it, and all things in good time.

Larry King: Did Oprah play a part in your getting the role?

David Oyelowo: She definitely played a part in the film actually happening. I had done a film called ‘The Butler’ with her in which she played my mother—

Larry King: Yeah, that was some movie.

David Oyelowo: Yeah…

Larry King: You were the rebel.

David Oyelowo: Yes, I was her rebel child, and while we were filming that I had told her that I had a dream, pardon the pun, of playing Dr. King. And she said that she would do everything she could to help me achieve that. And so when we were struggling with the film, I asked her to come on as a producer and she did.

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