Details about the project remain a mystery but producer Entertainment One noted its excitement over having Ali at the helm.
“We have long loved this project and have been patiently waiting until we found the right leading actor, which we no doubt have found in the incredibly talented Mahershala Ali,” Nick Meyer, eOne’s president of film, said Wednesday in announcing the project. “The cast is clearly shaping up well and is backed by a creative team with a proven track record and the ability to tell a story that will resonate with audiences around the world.”
“Much like our film Arrival, this project is for us a dream pairing of an inspired screenplay with a truly visionary director. Marc Munden has been an exceptional collaborator in shaping this singular story into one that jumps off the page and with the phenomenally talented Mahershala Ali at the heart of this film, we feel we now have the dream creative partners to tell a story that audiences won’t forget,” Levy, Levine and Cohen said in a joint statement.
“Sovereign” will be directed by Marc Munden from a script penned by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the duo behind the 2018 horror film “A Quiet Place.”
Ali has won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his work in “Moonlight” and most recently for his role as Dr. Don Shirley in “Green Book.”
The 45-year-old actor previously shared his thoughts on the controversy surrounding the depiction of the real-life jazz musician (the late Don Shirley) that he portrays in the film.
When Shirley’s family were interviewed for Shadow and Act in 2018, they described the project as a “symphony of lies” that included a mischaracterization of Don’s relationship with his overtly racist driver Tony Lip, portrayed in the film by Viggo Mortensen.
Backstage at the Golden Globes in January, Ali expressed respect for the family. “I will say this, my job is always the same: I have to look at what I am doing and be responsible for it,” he said, according to Deadline. “I respect the family…and Don Shirley,” he said. “I spoke to the studio and the family and at the end of the day you wish everyone was happy and you don’t want to offend anyone in any capacity.”
As reported by Complex, Don Shirley’s nephew, Edwin Shirley III, also revealed that the family received a personal phone call from Ali during which he “profusely” apologized for any disappointment or frustration the film may have caused them.
“What he said was, ‘If I have offended you, I am so, so terribly sorry. I did the best I could with the material I had. I was not aware that there were close relatives with whom I could have consulted to add some nuance to the character,’” Edwin said of their conversation.