Forest Whitaker is in negotiations to star opposite Denzel Washington in the period drama, The Great Debaters for the Weinstein Co.; Washington is also directing, with Oprah Winfrey producing.

The film chronicles the true story of professor Melvin B. Tolson (Washington), who formed a debate team at a small black college in the 1930s. The team went on to beat Harvard in the national debate championships. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Whitaker will play the father of one of the debaters and a rival to Washington's character.

The Great Debaters is scheduled to begin shooting in mid-May in Louisiana.