For the majority of his life, Keith Beauchamp has been intrigued by the murder of Emmett Till.
As a child growing up in Louisiana, Beauchamp recalled, he came across a photograph in Jet magazine of the 14-year-old African American boy from Chicago who was murdered in the Mississippi Delta in 1955 for whistling at a white female shopkeeper.
Having earlier produced a documentary on the famous case, Beauchamp, now based in Brooklyn, is planning to do a feature film to honor Till’s legacy and shoot it in the region where the murder occurred.
“It’s important that a landmark film, a story like ‘Till’ that took place in the Delta, in Mississippi, should be filmed in Mississippi,” Beauchamp said.
The 47-year-old filmmaker has been on his “Till journey” since the age of 22.
In doing the research that ultimately led to the documentary, Beauchamp discovered that there were more people involved in Till’s kidnapping and death than Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, the two white men who were charged and subsequently acquitted by an all-white jury.
Beauchamp’s research prompted the FBI to reopen the case in 2004, but it produced no new indictments. A principal subject in the investigation was Carolyn Bryant Donham, Roy Bryant’s former wife, with whom the precocious Till had been fresh at Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market in Money while visiting with relatives. In 2007, a racially mixed Leflore County grand jury declined to indict her, saying the evidence did not support criminal charges.
Till’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley, had encouraged Beauchamp to produce a documentary from his research. The result, “The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till,” was released in 2005.
Now he wants to follow up that low-budget endeavor with another movie — which, he estimated, would cost
$10 million to $15 million.
Beauchamp’s original script for “Till” was purchased by Showtime, though Beauchamp said the project “was sat on.” It has gotten new life and has several significant Hollywood names lined up as producers, including:
• Academy Award-winning actress Whoopi Goldberg.
• Fred Zollo, who produced the 1988 film “Mississippi Burning,” shot in Mississippi, about the FBI’s investigation into the 1964 slaying of three civil rights workers in Neshoba County.
• Barbara Broccoli, who has produced several James Bond films.
• Thomas Levine, who produced “The Ladies Man,” a comedy released in 2000.
Beauchamp said he has actors lined up for the film but declined to name them.
Jesse Williams, an actor on the TV show “Grey’s Anatomy,” was originally attached to direct, according to Variety, a Hollywood publication.
Assisting Beauchamp on the screenplay is Michael Reilly, who’s produced a half-dozen movies.
“Finally my dream is coming to life,” Beauchamp said of the project.
“It’s a narrative film that I hope will present not only the story about Emmett Till but also the truth surrounding his murder. People still don’t know the truth surrounding the Emmett Till case.”
If all goes according to plan, Beauchamp said, he would like to shoot the film in early 2020 in the region where the killing that galvanized the civil rights movement originated.
“Mississippi is a beautiful backdrop,” he said. “It’s important for me to shoot this film in the Delta among the people who lived this story.”
• Contact Gerard Edic at 581-7239 or firstname.lastname@example.org.