The movie follows Martin Luther King Jr. as he leads the famous 1965 march—which took three tries due to police brutality and resistance—from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
The film focuses on Dr.King’s struggle to campaign for equal voting rights and his plight to have President Lyndon B. Johnson sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibited racial discrimination in voting.
David Oyelowo plays Dr. King, alongside a star-studded cast including Cuba Gooding Jr., Common, Wendell Pierce, Tim Roth, Alessandro Nivola, Giovanni Ribisi and Oprah Winfrey, who also served as a co-producer of the film.
In the film, Oprah plays Annie Lee Cooper, an activist during the Voting Rights movement who became a figurehead for the cause after her involvement in a brawl with the police. Winfrey reportedly did all of her own stunts.
“I am trying to get in a movie where I don’t hit somebody or I am hit,” Oprah jokingly told Entertainment Tonight, referring to her role in “The Butler,” where she had to hit her co-star, again played by Oyelowo.
Lee Daniels, director of the 2009 film, Precious, was originally signed on as director of the project but backed out to focus on directing The Butler. Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B, which produced the iconic 2013 film, 12 Years a Slave, then contacted DuVernay to step in. DuVernay most notably won Best Director at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for her second feature film Middle of Nowhere. She also directed an episode of “Scandal,” which was the first time a major American television show featured three Black women serving as the star (Kerry Washington), writer (Shonda Rhimes) and director.
Selma is produced by Christian Colson, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Winfrey. Executive producers are Cameron McCracken, Nik Bower, Diarmuid McKeown, DuVernay, Paul Garnes, Nan Morales.
Selma will have a limited release in New York and Los Angeles on Christmas Day, ensuring that it can be considered for the Oscars. But the film won’t hit theaters nationwide until 2015, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.