Paramount Pictures had acquired the rights to August Wilson‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning play in 1987 for Eddie Murphy to star. Murphy was then at the peak of his popularity, due to the commercial success of the Beverly Hills Cop movies.
However it took three decades — and the involvement of mega-star Denzel Washington, as producer, director, and actor, to get it made.
Washington had played the lead role on Broadway in a revival, winning a Tony Award for his performance.
So did his co-star, Viola Davis.