ICYMI: Lionel Richie Partners with Curtis Mayfield’s Estate for New Biopic Film

By Sameer Rao Oct 12, 2017

The family of Curtis Mayfield will collaborate with another R&B veteran, Lionel Richie, for the first official biopic on the singer’s life.

Deadline reported Tuesday (October 10) that Richie acquired the rights for a feature film from Mayfield’s estate. The ex-Commodores leader will produce the still-untitled film through his RichLion Productions company. Richie told Deadline that the estate and Mayfield’s living family will be involved in the movie.

“It’s an honor for me to bring the life of one of my idols and friends to the screen,” Richie said. “I’m so grateful to be working closely with [the late singer’s wife] Altheida Mayfield, [his son] Cheaa Mayfield and the Curtis Mayfield Estate, and couldn’t be happier to be moving forward on this amazing project about a one-of-a-kind music genius.”

“It’s time to celebrate and re-evaluate Curtis’ legacy,” Altheida Mayfield added. “For years, too many others have tried to claim what he alone did. He was a genius, always stood on his own.”

Altheida Mayfield did not specify who she believes took credit for her husband’s work, but the family spent nearly a decade stuck in an estate lawsuit with Marvin Heiman, the singer’s former manager. The family accused Heiman of taking money from their trust, which he co-administered with Altheida. A Georgia appeals court dismissed the lawsuit in 2009, by which point Heiman had already resigned from the estate board. Altheida Mayfield now operates the estate and commissioned a number of retrospective projects—including, according to Billboard, a revamped website and volumes of unreleased material—over the past five years.

Per his Allmusic.com biography, Curtis Mayfield rose to fame as the frontman of The Impressions, a Chicago-based R&B and soul group. The trio achieved worldwide acclaim during the 1960s for songs like "People Get Ready" and "Choice of Colors," which directly addressed concerns about racial inequity. Mayfield launched a prolific solo career after leaving The Impressions in 1970. Perhaps his most famous album is the 1972 soundtrack to the Blaxploitation film, "Super Fly." That record, featuring hits like "Pusherman" and "Freddie’s Dead," is one of few soundtracks in history that outsold their partner films. A lighting rig fell on Mayfield at a concert in 1990, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. He died in 1999 from complications of type 2 diabetes, which he developed after the accident.