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Sam Rockwell to Play KKK Leader in Taraji P. Henson’s Civil Rights Drama ‘Best of Enemies’

Variety logo Variety 5/17/2017 Dave McNary
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Sam Rockwell will play a Ku Klux Klan leader opposite Taraji P. Henson in the civil rights drama “The Best of Enemies.”

Production will start in Atlanta on May 22 under Fred Bernstein’s Astute Films banner. Henson has been attached since 2015 to star in the film, set up with “Empire” producer Danny Strong, Tobey Maguire, Matthew Plouffe, Bernstein, Matt Berenson, Robin Bissell, and Dominique Telson. The executive producers are Rick Jackson and Jeremiah Samuels.

Bissell, an exec producer on “The Hunger Games” and “Seabiscuit,” will make his directorial debut from his own script, based on Osha Gray Davidson’s book “The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South.”

“Empire” star Henson will portray Ann Atwater, a civil rights activist in Durham, N.C., who battled KKK leader C.P. Ellis for a decade until 1971, when the two agreed to co-chair a two-week community meeting to deal with a court-ordered school desegregation decree. That event changed both of their lives immeasurably.

Babou Ceesay has been tapped to star as Bill Riddick, who reluctantly, yet masterfully, persuaded Ellis and Atwater to head the community summit to try and reach a compromise. Anne Heche, Wes Bentley, Bruce McGill, Nick Searcy, and John Gallagher Jr. round out the cast.

Henson recently starred in “Hidden Figures” and is currently shooting “Proud Mary” for Screen Gems. Rockwell will be seen next in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Ceesay stars alongside Idris Elba and Freida Pinto in the Showtime series “Guerilla.”

Henson is repped by UTA and Vincent Cirrincione Associates. Rockwell is repped by Gersh and Untitled Entertainment.

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