News: Lenny Henry To Play Richard Pryor?

Comedian and actor Lenny Henry is working on a play with the National Theatre about the life of legendary stand-up comedian Richard Pryor. Talking to Robert Elms on BBC London today Henry revealed that this is one of the various projects he is currently working on.

It was not confirmed if Henry would play Pryor, but given his stand-up background and his recent acclaimed acting career it seems to be the perfect fit. Henry has previously appeared at the National in The Comedy of Errors. 

No further details have been released so far and the production is not in the NT’s current programme of events. Henry has regularly spoken of his admiration for the American comedian, who died in 2005. Last year he wrote a piece about Pryor for the Independent, in which he said “I was in love with his voice and the fearlessness of the work” adding that Pryor would always be his hero. 

Pryor’s life certainly included enough drama for a play. He was raised in his grandmother’s brothel and nearly died in 1980 when he set himself on fire while freebasing cocaine. He regularly tops the charts as one of the greatest comedians of all time. His live films, Richard Pryor Live! and Richard Pryor Live on Sunset Strip, have been acclaimed as two of the greatest-ever live comedy performances and have been hugely influential on contemporary comedians.

Henry was talking on BBC London to promote the new stage version of his R4 sitcom Rudy’s Rare Records, which comes to the Hackney Empire from September 24. He has also filmed a TV pilot of the series, which will go out as part of the Comedy Playhouse strand.

There are also reports of a Hollywood biopic of Pryor to be directed by Lee Daniels (The Butler, Precious) in the pipeline with comedian Michael Epps reported to be the star. 

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