Eddie Murphy may soon star in a more serious role, playing former Washington Mayor Marion Barry in a new HBO film project.

Washington journalists Tom Sherwood and Harry Jaffe have optioned the rights for their 1994 book "Dream City: Race, Power and the Decline of Washington, D.C." Sherwood said Friday that they have a separate contract with HBO to consult on a project if their book is adapted. Sherwood is a reporter for NBC's Washington affiliate and previously worked for The Washington Post. Jaffe is an editor and writer for Washingtonian magazine.

An HBO spokeswoman said Friday that the network is working with Spike Lee and Murphy on the project, though she said it's in the early stages of development. Lee would direct the project, and Murphy would play Barry. Lee did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Nearly 10 years ago, HBO also bought the rights to "Dream City" for a different project, but it was never produced.

In 1990, during Barry's third term as mayor, he was videotaped smoking crack cocaine in a hotel room during an FBI sting operation, an episode that drew worldwide attention. He eventually served six months in federal prison on a misdemeanor drug possession conviction and was elected again to the D.C. Council in 1992. Barry won a fourth term as mayor in 1994. He returned to the Council in 2004 and continues to represent one of the city's poorest wards.

Barry has declined to talk publicly about the HBO project. A spokesman for Barry said he had no comment on it..

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