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That ended any movement toward a Malcolm X feature until 1983, when representatives for Richard Pryor presented Hollywood a package with the then-bankable Pryor starring as [MALCOLM X], Sidney Lumet directing and David Mamet writing the screenplay. The script was completed, then shelved by producer [Marvin Worth], who says he thought Pryor would have been right in the role of boyhood pal Shorty ([SPIKE LEE]'s part in the current film), not the lead.
Then, suddenly, Malcolm X became a pop icon thanks largely to Spike Lee's use of a quote from Malcolm's seminal "Ballot or the Bullet" speech at the end of Lee's 1988 hit, "Do the Right Thing." Samples from Malcolm's other speeches could be heard in hip-hop and rap tracks.
Yet a white director, Norman Jewison ("In the Heat of the Night" and "A Soldier's Story") was brought into the project with black Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Charles Fuller. Jewison asked that Denzel Washington, who made his film breakthrough in "A Soldier's Story," play Malcolm. Fuller's script, like [James Baldwin]'s, Mamet's and [David Bradley]'s, was shelved.