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'Selma' director, star say they wanted to portray Martin Luther King Jr. the man, not the monument

"No one here wanted to make a film about a statue or a speech or a sale or a street name or initials or a catchphrase or all the things that I feel [Martin Luther King Jr.] has been reduced to in a lot of ways," says director Ava DuVernay.

By Karen Butler
Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo and Ava Duvernay arrive on the red carpet at the New York Premiere of 'Selma' at Ziegfeld Theater in New York City on December 14, 2014. UPI/John Angelillo
Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo and Ava Duvernay arrive on the red carpet at the New York Premiere of 'Selma' at Ziegfeld Theater in New York City on December 14, 2014. UPI/John Angelillo | License Photo

NEW YORK, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- Selma director Ava DuVernay says she was determined to depict American civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in "all of his human complexity."

"No one here wanted to make a film about a statue or a speech or a sale or a street name or initials or a catchphrase or all the things that I feel King has been reduced to in a lot of ways," DuVernay said at a recent New York press conference, while sitting alongside producer and co-star Oprah Winfrey, as well as members of their cast.

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"He was a dynamic and charismatic, brilliant mind," DuVernay said of King Jr. "He was a man of faith, who was sometimes unfaithful. He was guilty, he was depressed, he had an ego. He liked to laugh. He was a prankster. He was a human being and there hasn't been a film made with Dr. King at the center released by a studio ever and, so, when we were charged to do it, our main goal was to show him in all of his human complexity and kind of unlock him from the statue and let him live and breathe and tell the story."

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David Oyelowo, who is generating Oscar buzz for his unforgettable portrayal of King Jr., said he did his best to make the larger-than-life personality multi-dimensional and relatable.

"Dr. King did not think of himself as an icon," the actor noted. "He didn't walk around thinking of himself as a historical figure. He was a man. And I am so full of admiration for what he did and I am not him. But the thing that I could seize upon was he was a father of four, as I am. He was a Christian, as I am. He was someone who valued justice, as I do, and those were my entry points." Co-starring Carmen Ejogo, Common, Wendell Pierce, Tom Wilkinson, Cuba Gooding Jr., Martin Sheen and Tim Roth, Selma is to open in select U.S. theaters Dec. 25 and everywhere Jan. 9.

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