Ben Kingsley may play Dr. Kevorkian. Oscar-winning director Barbara Kopple plans a biopic of the assisted-suicide doctor

By Gary Susman
Updated October 19, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

A movie about assisted-suicide physician Jack Kevorkian may sound like box office poison, but what if you cast a name actor like, say, Ben Kingsley? According to the Detroit Free Press, two-time Oscar-winning director Barbara Kopple and producer Steve Jones are planning to make a biopic of the Michigan doctor, and the Oscar-winning Gandhi star is at the top of their wish list.

”I don’t intend to make a film that bolsters euthanasia,” Jones told the Free Press. ”This is a story about an extraordinary life. No matter what you think of Kevorkian, he is a genius. His story is multifaceted and riveting.”

Jones said Kevorkian, 76, will be helping him and Koppel as much as he can by providing access to personal papers. He’s currently serving the fifth year of a 10-to-25-year sentence for the assisted suicide of Thomas Youk in 1998, one of 130 suicides Kevorkian says he has assisted. Jones visited Kevorkian last week at the Thumb Correctional Facility in Lapeer, Mich. His legal team has been preparing a request for a new trial before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kopple, best known for documentaries about labor strikes (as in Harlan County U.S.A. and American Dream) and controversial people (Mike Tyson, Woody Allen). She’ll oversee the tranformation of a 300-page unpublished manuscript about Kevorkian written by his friends, Neal Nicol and Harry Wylie. ”The film is going to be a real, honest look at the journeys people make. It will look at the life of Dr. Kevorkian and all the incredible layers of his personality. And it will look at a man who’s given up so much for what he believes.”