The film follows the 2010 release of her memoir, “Foxy: My Life in Three Acts,” which chronicles her private life that included love affairs with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Richard Pryor, and Freddie Prinze.
The script for “Pam,” the working title of the biopic, is about to be shopped, one that Jay Pharoah reportedly read and attached himself to play Pryor. The former “Saturday Night Live” star said, “The story is heartbreaking, raw, honest and beautiful, all rolled into one testimony.”
Deadline writer Mike Fleming Jr. notes how he “was surprised to hear that Grier experienced relatively little sexual harassment during her rise” to fame.
He also writes: “There is a disturbing tale in her book about a time she was invited to Sammy Davis Jr’s house where, in front of his wife Altovise, the singer became so aggressive in his attempt to bed Grier that she had to enlist Liza Minnelli and her husband Jack Haley Jr to drive her away from the estate while she hid in the back seat.”
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And then there’s this: As she first revealed in her book, Grier was raped at age 6 by two older boys, and again in college. It nearly happened a third time – she didn’t include that assault in the book because her publisher felt it was too much, she said – when “I fought off a 300-pound retired football player, a family friend who was supposed to come out to mentor me. I suffered scratches, abrasions, everything, but I beat the shit out of him with furniture and walked away from it.”
Grier said that her saving grace during her rise was signing with agent John Gaines, who made sure that she didn’t find herself in potentially dangerous situations when she went up for roles.
“I called John my fairy godmother because of the way he protected me and guided me,” she said. “If you go to meet someone on a business deal, your lawyer, manager, agent, someone must always be with you. John always set those rules for me and created a comfort zone. He just had seen so much, he knew. When he took me to clubs, and someone would hand me a drink, he would say: “Don’t drink that. See the sediment at the bottom? You drink that and you won’t remember the next week.’ I became comfortable, not accepting the invitations. Sammy Davis Jr, and even his wife Altovise invited me back and I declined. If I didn’t have John the agent to go with me to the industry dinners or cocktail parties, I stayed away from them. I didn’t really experience the sexual harassment you might think. I wonder if they saw my films and thought that I probably could beat them up. And you know, I could, because I studied enough martial arts seriously that I probably could have really hurt someone.”
Grier’s “own decision to disclose the rapes in her life came, she said, from counsel by Gloria Steinem and in observing Maya Angelou’s experience in divulging the trauma of a childhood sexual assault. In that case, Angelou was raped by her mother’s boyfriend — an incident that so upset the future poet that she didn’t speak for the next five years.”
She kept her assaults secret for similar fears. She said: “My grandfather Daddy Ray taught all us girls to hunt, fish, shoot and drive the boat and a tractor. … If I had told my family, especially what happened when I was 6? The men in my family would have hunted those boys down, for hurting me. It would have destroyed my family, and I decided to stay quiet and see how long I can go and how much stronger I can be with this energy inside me.”
She still is processing the painful memories. “A long-term boyfriend of mine — this was someone who had gone to Harvard and someone I’d helped when he was out of work — and when I felt confident I could tell him about the things that happened, while I was working on building my confidence to talk about the things I wrote in the book. And when I told him he was shocked, and said, ‘Wow, you’re tainted.’ I said, ‘What? I’m tainted? He said, ‘Yeah, because of the attacks, the rapes and what you’ve gone through.’”
As for the biopic that Grier wants to see told on the screen, the “Foxy” memoir provides some of the most memorable tales — ranging from her work in those AIP and Corman films to being a ’60s activist, and a romantic life where she fell in love with Abdul-Jabbar, Prinze and Pryor.
Her romances with Prinze and Pryor resulted in heartbreak, and Grier was one of the last people Prinze spoke to before he shot himself in 1977. Her relationship with Pryor disintegrated over his drug problem. She once received a crisis call from Sidney about it.
“‘Pam, Richard’s high, and we’re like 10 weeks behind and they’re going to pull the plug on the movie,’ Sidney says. ‘Gene Wilder … everybody’s mad. Everybody’s upset. Everyone’s afraid they’re going to lose their jobs. Can you come down here and talk to Richard? I think you’re the only person who can reach him.’
“I was on my way to do Fort Apache, the Bronx in New York, and I said I would come down on my way and see if I can do anything or say anything,” Grier said. “I get there, and he’s freebasing. I’d never seen anything like that. Holding a Bunsen burner of liquid in front of your face, while something’s in a net that looks like a rock cooking … it was just so bizarre to me. And I wanted to say, ‘Well, you know, Sidney, Richard has some fears, insecurities and they have to be addressed. Maybe like a musician he has to prepare himself, get high before he comes to the set. I don’t know. You always knew he did indulge and now you want him to stop? I don’t know how you’re gonna do that. But you’re gonna have to give him some time, help him figure out how he can prepare without that, so his career isn’t destroyed.’
“So Richard and I talk, we go to the set and he says, ‘I’m glad you came and I’m going to try, I’m really going to try to stop. I didn’t want you to be disappointed.’ And I said, ‘I’m not disappointed. It’s just you have such an opportunity. People love you so much. And you’re gonna take it all away. For some reason you don’t want to give whatever it is. So, I’m gonna go.”
Finally, Grier had enough of the empty promises.
“Shortly after, a call comes in through the production office of Fort Apache and it’s Jim Brown,” Grier recalled. “He says Richard wants to talk to me and I need to fly there. He may not live through the night. And I ended up saying, ‘Well you know what, Jim? Richard did some things that disrespected me.’ And he always said, if you disrespect someone and they hang around that means they have no self-esteem and you can do anything to them — lie, and steal. I said that if I come back to his bedside and back into his life … he’s just going to have to get out of his bed alone, walk by himself and find himself. And I remember Jim saying, ‘Wow. That’s cold, Pam.’ And I went, ‘Yeah, it is. It is cold. But maybe this tough love will help him to change. I don’t know.’ And I remember going back to my apartment and just sobbing. Like why?”
Read Deadline’s full report here.