Samuel L Jackson has signed on to star and make his Broadway debut in Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop, but Halle Berry, also widely mentioned for a key role has dropped out of consideration.
Jackson will play civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King Jr on the night before the civil he was shot and killed on a Memphis hotel balcony in 1968.
In one odd twist, Jackson is 62, while King was only 39 when he was shot and killed.
The Mountaintop has been playing to solid critical reviews in London, where it won the 2010 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play.
Berry was forced to dropped out of the production because of what she called “child custody issues.”
She’s locked in a bitter dispute with ex-mate Gabriel Aubry , with whom she has a two-year-old daughter, Nahla.
They never married and split in April 2010 after agreeing to a temporary custody arrangement. But things turned bitter when they tried to work out a formal, long-term custody agreement.
The two traded bitter charges but in the time since then, they have moved closer to resolving their differences.
Last week Judge Mark Juhas, who is overseeing the case, said both sides were “making huge progress.”
Berry went through and equally bitter split from Eric Benet in 2005.
Conceivably a resolution of the case could free up Berry for the play.
She was slated to play Camae, a hotel maid., who is protagonist in the play.
After King delivers his inspiring “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, reflecting on his on mortality, he returns to his room in the Lorraine Motel to rest.
He meets a mysterious hotel maid, and she forces him to address issues from his past as well as reflect on his legacy.
Kenny Leon (Fences) reportedly has been approached to direct.
Show producers Jean Doumanian and Sonia Friedman called the The Mountaintop “a brilliantly conceived gem of a play,” in a statement.
“[It’s] an ambitious work of fiction that is powerful, heartbreaking, humorous and exhilarating,” they added.
The also called Hall “a singular new American voice.”
King’s assassination touched off massive riots in cities across the country.
Although his achievements are unquestioned, King was ultimately flawed as a human being and later reports surfaced of numerous affairs.
The first performance is set for Sept 22 and the play will open Oct. 13 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater (242 West 45th Street). Tickets sales have yet to be announced.