Oscar buzz certainly has its perks. Although Lee Daniels didn't win for best director earlier this month, what he gained in star power more than made up for it. Case in point is his next project, 'Selma.' Daniels recently announced that he cast Cedric the Entertainer and Liam Neeson to play major roles in his civil rights drama, which is due out next year. The two men join a talented lineup that includes Hugh Jackman and Lenny Kravitz.
Liam Neeson and Cedric the Entertainer are both on board in key roles, with the former playing President Lyndon Baines Johnson and the latter playing American civil rights movement leader and Martin Luther King Jr. associate Ralph Abernathy.
"Selma" is set against the backdrop of the civil rights disputes that raged during the 1960s. It is specifically focused on one moment in time in the middle of the decade. Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ostensibly made segregation illegal, local governments in less forward-thinking parts of the country still built barriers designed to defeat black citizens who wished to exercise their constitutional rights.
This week marks the 45th anniversary of one historic act of protest during that time — on March 25, 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. led a mass gathering of civil rights protesters to the doorstep of Alabama's State Capitol Building in Montgomery. It was the end of a five-day, four-night march that started in Selma, Alabama, an act of public protest that ultimately became an important component in the passage of the National Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed discriminatory practices that had been used to prevent African-Americans from exercising their right to vote.
Daniels' story in "Selma" will encompass the march and the events leading up to it. His key players are Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo was cast in the role last week), President Johnson, Sheriff Jim Clark (Hugh Jackman), future Sheriff Wilson Baker (elected in '66), Andrew Young (Lenny Kravitz) and Ralph Abernathy.