Protean actor David Oyelowo says that his being cast as Martin Luther King in Lee Daniels’ “Selma” is partly attributable to his having played blues great Muddy Waters in the 2008 “Who Do You Love.”
Oyelowo’s family is from Nigeria — said to be Nigerian royalty, in fact — but he hails from Oxford, England, speaks with a brilliant British accent, and has lots of starring work with the Royal Shakespeare Company under his belt. Learning Waters’ Delta dialect and understanding his world in the American South moved the actor many steps closer to being able to play MLK in the planned feature, one of two or three competing MLK projects, this one with Robert De Niro, Hugh Jackman, Lenny Kravitz and Tim Blake Nelson in addition to Oyelowo.
Oyelowo was among the “Who Do You Love” film team on hand for a special screening of the feature (a.k.a. “Chess”) as it wound up the 6th Annual L.A. Jewish Film Festival the other night. Though it won kudos at the Toronto Film Festival, “Who Do You Love” ran aground, distribution-wise, due to conflict with another film about pioneering rock ‘n’ roll recording impresario Leonard Chess — Sony’s “Cadillac Records” starring Adrien Brody and Beyonce.
A much more close-to-reality depiction of the Leonard and Philip Chess story than “Cadillac Records” (which left out brother Philip entirely), “Who Do You Love” certainly warrants much more attention than it’s received to date. Getting fresh appreciation at the LAJF, attended by names including Grammy winner Diane Warren, can’t hurt.
Oyelowo is also starring in Fox’s August release “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” — and notes it’s the first U.S. production in which he’s been able to use his own accent.