*Eight years ago, Shaka King was struggling as a Black filmmaker trying to make it in Hollywood. Now, his film “Judas and the Black Messiah” arrives as one of the most anticipated movies of the year.
In 2016, King had got the idea for what would become “Judas” while hanging out with Keith and Kenny Lucas, of the comedy duo the Lucas Brothers. The brothers, who had worked with King on a television pilot, thought the story of the Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, the informant William O’Neal and the F.B.I. would make for a powerful crime thriller: “‘The Departed’ set in the world of Cointelpro.”
“I thought it was the best idea I’d ever heard,” King recalled. “I could see the whole movie instantly.”
He began work on a script, joining forces with another writer, Will Berson, who’d written his own draft of a story based on Hampton’s life. The historical drama is only King’s second film. Produced with Ryan Coogler, the director of “Creed” and “Black Panther,” and Charles D. King, the film stars Daniel Kaluuya as Hampton and Lakeith Stanfield as the misguided O’Neal, who helped the F.B.I. orchestrate Hampton’s killing.
“I felt that if we could thread both needles — the entertainment and the politics — then it would be very hard for people to dismiss the content of this movie,” said Coogler.
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