Aretha Franklin Weighs In On Nina Simone Biopic Controversy: ‘I Would’ve Liked To See Someone With A Little More Of A Likeness’

May 10, 2013  |  

Source(s): The YBF, WENN

There has been an overwhelming amount of controversy surrounding the forthcoming Nina Simone biopic. Although many have admitted that they’d like to be happy about a movie celebrating the “High Priestess of Soul,” it has been expressed that the thought of Zoe Saldana, who looks nothing like Simone, playing the late songstress in the biographical project is a little disturbing. Especially when there are so many other qualified actresses and singers who look more like Nina and could probably nail the role. During a recent interview with the AP, Aretha Franklin, who knew Nina personally, weighed in on the debate.

“I did know Nina and I would have liked to see someone with a little more of a likeness and hopefully played the piano. But I don’t know Ms. Saldana’s work and Hollywood can do a lot of things in terms of changing your features and all of that,” Aretha expressed.

The “Queen of Soul” also addressed concerns she has about the casting in her own forthcoming biopic.

On actress Audra McDonald: 
“The question where Audra is concerned is whether or not Audra can get into soul. That would be the question because she has the voice, she has a beautiful instrument. I just wonder how far she can get over into soul.”
On Jennifer Hudson: 
“Jennifer would come up with some good things.”

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  • Iceman1958

    Aretha Franklin weighs in? Didn’t the writer even have an editor on that one?

  • Kira

    Everyone is saying India Arie should have got it because she can sing and looks like her, but CAN SHE ACT??! It’s more than just singing..

    • True … But acting can be learned. And video’s are a little bit of acting. But singing, you have to have that gift

  • Umm, if Jeffrey Wright could play Muddy Waters in Cadillac Records, then Zoe should be able to play Nina Simone.

    • Kira

      Thank you!! If Angela Bassett can slap on a wig and lip-synch as Tina Turner, why can’t Zoe?? I support Zoe and hope she nails this just to shut these folks up.

      • D.D

        Putting on a wig and black face are no even close to being the same and Tina turner wore wigs herself in real life. Most time the actors or actresses still look like themselves they are not wearing black face or having their skin lightened to look more like who they are playing. That is the issue

  • Shugga

    With acting classes (SERIOUS acting training) this could have been a big break opportunity for Nene. Sounds crazy I know but when I saw Nina’s pic up top…I thought, she’s giving me Nene hunny minus the blonde quick weave…

  • Realtalk


  • That movie could’ve been NeNe Leakes breakout role to be taken seriously as an actress in Hollywood!


      can i take u to dinner?

      • LOL I don’t even know u!

        • JONESGEE

          lol true,but u can get to know me on our date!

  • The only way Hollywood get the mess if we boycott this nonsense, !!!i

  • MzFitt

    Oh, but she wanted Halle Berry to portray her in a movie…what? LOL

  • Beaujetto Chicks

    wow….black face..really there are so many other choices why choose someone who doesn’t even pose a general likeness? Disgraceful

  • Beaujetto Chicks


  • Armetta

    Hmmm she would have preferred someone who looks like Nina. But she wants Halle Berry to portray her in her biopic.

  • Realist

    Zoe Zaldana father is Dominican and her mother is Puerto Rican. Every time people ask Zoe if she considers herself Dominican or Puerto Rican she says she considers herself a black woman. Check your facts. Zoe Zaldana is proud of her skin color. The people here commenting about her not being a good actress are tripping. The producers of this movie probably chose her to play this wool because they wanted a famous dark skinned actress that is already in Hollywood and has done movies that sell to make people want to come watch this movie. Get over it. I’m a fan of Nina and I will be watching this film regardless of who’s playing the role.

    • smarty

      If Your fan of Nina you wouldn’t support this movie it goes against everything she stood for.

  • MoniqueB

    The movie will be a flop.

  • goddess8281

    Whoever did Ms. Franklin’s make-up needs to immediately be given a pink slip and.escorted off the property..That is horrible work.

  • The fact of the matter is controversy sales! The fact that it’s so controversial is gonna have butts warming all theater seats even if it is just to come back on MN to throw shade! But I agree with most it’s gonna be epic fail lol. I think the only way you can get off not looking alike is if it’s gonna be some good as acting i.e Angela Bassett/ Tina Turner. Zoe is just a borderline decent actress that always plays safe roles. But hey, if Flex Alexander can play MJ then anything is possible!

    • Mason Gray

      I disagree. If controversy is their aim, this movie will fail. Most white people under 50 don’t know who nina simone is and many black people are already hip to the game they’re trying to pull and won’t even bother going to see it. Maybe they’ll go pick up a bootleg copy though.

      • I see what you are saying but when you think about it a lot of people either don’t know who she is or wasn’t too interested in the biopic until all this controversy. For instance i knew of Zoe’s movies but didn’t know her by name. If she wasn’t famous before the controversy of this biopic definitely made her famous. With nothing but respect to Nina Simone I probably wouldn’t have been interested in her biopic if the blogs weren’t going crazy over the Zoe thing. For example many people only went to see Django unchained because of the controversy.

      • Iceman1958

        Since when do you speak for everyone?



  • isola

    No one has sen the movie yet and I am glad Ms. Franklyn got off of wanting Halle Berry to play her.

  • nene fan

    I think an actress who is a dead ringer for Nina Simone would have been NeNe Leakes. If you compare them with side by side photos they have about the same facial features. NeNe I think would be able to sing as well.

    • MzFitt

      NeKnot is an actress?

  • nitrodrip

    The person that should have played her is Viola Davis.

    • Child_Puhleez

      Oh, now I’d definitely pay for that.

  • 1Val

    Fantasia(has soul and acting) or Leandria Johnson(has gospel roots) would be better choices than Jennifer Hudson and Audra McDonald to portray Aretha Franklin. But conceited legend vain enough to think Halle Berry should portray her isn’t concerned with talent just beauty she never possessed in her life. Aretha have several seats!!!

  • Child_Puhleez

    The woman who could successfully embody Nina Simone is who deserves the role, Aretha.

  • Midas Touch

    I swear this move with Zoe is an intentional diss and insult to black actesses in Hollywood. There is literally an entire college roster worth of excellent black actresses, known and unknown, who resemble Nina Simone who they could have used to portray her. Nothing against Zoe. She’s totally hot and I dig seeing her in anything but come on, ya’ll. That picture looks like a white woman masquerading, even with the black face and prosthetics. We need to boycott this.

    • PeoplePlease7

      I’m with you…!

    • pure_igenue

      I agree! Zoe is one of the “safe” Black actresses in
      Hollywood because her features are “safe” by their standards. Yes white
      actors have done the same for their roles, BUT it does not carry the
      HISTORICAL negative connotation behind it…colorism.

  • Midas Touch

    Because everyone knows whenever they see Halle Berry on the screen the resemblance to Aretha Franklin is totally apparent right?? SMDH. OK. but back on topic, I really can’t wait to hear what kind of excuses the casting agent, producer and director are going to give as to why they would pick a woman who doesn’t resemble Nina in any stretch of the imagination.

  • badblessings

    I wouldn’t watch this movie even if it was s clear bootleg!!

  • tsb33

    I love the Queen but, that statement coming from someone who wanted Halle Berry to play her in a movie.

  • Mimsy

    Give Zoe a chance.. if Angela Bassett can wear a wig and lip-synch as Tina Turner, then why can’t Zoe?! Or Jamie Fox portraying Ray Charles, Will Smith as Muhammad Ali..Let’s her her a chance.. And yeah, India Arie may looks similar to Miss Simone, maybe her acting skills aren’t up to par?? Who knows.. but don’t we complain about singers pretending to be actors. example: It’s not like Beyonce trying to portray Etta James and just looking like Beyonce in a blonde wig singing an Etta James song!!

  • Areuserious

    The texture of her wig makes her features look harder, most black women have masculine faces and bone straight wigs/weave make them look unatural.

    • Will_Tha_Great

      A black woman took your man and U mad…masculine face and all…LMAO

      • patchbran


    • patchbran


  • iHM

    I think it’s a weird choice and I don’t understand the logic behind it. They probably thought Zoe would bring people to the box office I guess. I don’t care how she looks, she can be made to look like Nina, she has at least a foundation to look like Nina. But … she doesn’t even sing. That’s the disappointing part, we want actresses to actually sing and make these roles seem more real, not just sit there lip-syncing like a goof troop. It’s weird. They could have picked someone who looks nothing like Nina but can still sing, and I don’t think people would be this upset about it. But at the end of the day, this is one of those “really, who cares” moments. It’s just a movie, it’s not even something that’s like really happening in real life. Just a movie that will be forgotten about before the year is even over.

    • PeoplePlease7

      Hollywood, which is run by wealthy Jewish white men who happen to have a history of throwing Black culture under the bus. We who are intelligent should never trust our history being told by a Hollywood culture which has a history of showing us in our worst light, nor should we develop a habit of letting these things “slide”.

      • patchbran

        to be fair, hollywood throws everyone’s culture under the fastest bus (real housewives of [insert name of city here], honey booboo, jersey shore, any action movie you can name). we’re not talking about rocket scientists here. we’re talking about greedy self important clowns w/ no idea. stereotypes abound.

  • i though mjb was doing it what happend

  • PeoplePlease7

    This movie was coproduced by jimmy iovine of interscope records and those who study history should know that wealthy ashkenazi Jewish men and Black culture do not mix. jimmy and his cohorts have been throwing Black and christian culture under the bus for years with his signing of degrading artists (50 cent, chief keef, eminem, etc..). This is the latest assault.

    Boycott this movie, tell your friends and co workers to boycott this movie and anything associated with jimmy iovine….

  • oldschoolyrw

    Does that mean Ms. Aretha thinks she really has a likeness to Halli Berry? smh.

    • Will_Tha_Great

      LMAO…she did say she wanted Halle to play her.

  • I hope Zoe does Nina proud. Nina was a proud, conscious sister who loved her culture. Zoe always strikes me as being insecure and not proud of her heritage. I think Jennifer would be great as Aretha.

  • I don’t know actress Zoe Saldana, but if the casting director thinks that she is the right actress for the part what is the problem brothers and sisters?

    • The problem is, one Zoe don’t like to be call a black woman, she had said that in interview. She doesn’t want to be know as a “black actress” and Zoe is very very light skinned. Nina was not. So a Actress that doesn’t want to be called Black and isn’t Dark. Is playing a black dark skinned woman..

      • Meena

        She said that she doesn’t want to be thought of only as a black actress, not that she isn’t black. I don’t even know where you’re coming from with that. She is the FIRST one to call herself an Afro-latina and that is what she is. She proudly refers to herself as a black woman, even when so many from D.R. deny it. Check your facts.

        • Different interviews different answers at the end of the, I don’t think Zoe should play the role and I’m gald that someone who knew Nina spoke on it

          • pure_igenue

            She is wrong for the part, but you are wrong about Zoe not claiming Black. Not wanting to be known as a black actress instead of just an actress is what she was referring to. Zoe has never down played her blackness, I will give her credit for that, but I will not co-sign her invoking colorism in this day and age so she look the part of Nina when there are actresses out that can play and look the part. Look at that girl that played in Pariah…she would have been perfect for the part.

          • patchbran

            there’s nothing wrong in wanting to drop an unnecessary adjective. sometimes the black is important, sometimes it is truly irrelevant. like someone calling me a black screenwriter. or a black teacher. nowhere on my college degrees is my race designated. i’m not at all ashamed of being black, but should i ring up the universities i’ve attended & tell them i want the adjective black/african-american added to my alumni listing?

      • badblessings

        Zoe is not, “very very light skinned”.. Adjust your TV, computer, or your eyes..

        • Don’t be cute… Zoe and Nina are different shades

          • ClaireBear

            different shades, yes. but she is not very very light-skinned. zoe saldana has always identified herself as an afro-latina, despite the fact that many Dominicans and Latinos are quick to deny their African roots. So, Yes, perhaps you need to adjust your tv, computer or your eyes.

            • badblessings

              Thank you ClaireBear

          • badblessings

            Too late unlike you I am cute.. And a blind man could see that they are different “shades”.. like a box of Crayola crayons huh?.. Don’t try to be smug with your response when your perception of what very very light skinned” is off.. You are no where near light skinned in your frumpy profile pic, and Zoe’s “shade is close to your own..

    • ieshapatterson

      Lol the problem is,she had to put on several pounds if dark skin make up,wear an wig and looks NOTHING like nina. The directors are trying to bring in money,so they used a name they hope will get people s attention. But the reality us,many black people will not support this. Not to mention,zoe isn’t a “black” woman,so WHY is she playing one???

      • Meena

        She is a black woman. She is a black latina.

        • ieshapatterson

          Not according to her. She’s an afro latina who only likes to give praise to her German,Irish and Latin roots. The black almost always comes last.

    • LaLaLaMeansILoveYou

      Jamie Foxx playing Ray was that much more believable because he could play the piano and sing and didn’t need everything Dubbed over as is going to be the case with Zoe playing Nina. Nina’s story deserves so much more than that. I actually like Zoe as an actress but this just ISN’T THE PART FOR HER, she never should have agreed to do it. Also, a HUGE part of Nina’s struggle in the industry she was in was her beautiful chocolate skin (Zoe does not have), her full nose and lips (Zoe also does not have). So when you add it all up (Cant sing, can’t play, features dont resemble…), in the end all you have is a good actress, which there are thousands of, who most feel would be more qualified than her to play this very complex woman. WHY ZOE?? It just doesn’t add up.

  • Guest

    Don’t like the choice of Zoe for the role either, but I’m not sure Ms. Franklin should have made the statement being that she originally wanted Halle Berry to play her. Talk about someone being far from her likeness and she can’t sing. When it comes to telling our stories, maybe someday, someone will get it right!!!

  • AllyCat

    You would prefer what now? This coming from the woman who wanted/wants Halle Berry to play her in a biopic? More of a likeness, ch…

  • This Is just ridiculous in these days and times to revert back to the way they casted before the civil rights era. An insult to the life of Ms. Nina Simone and all who knew her and loved her music. If this goes through, I for one will not go see it or purchase the dvd. I’m surprised at Ms. Zoe I guess I gave her more credit than she’s due to know she doesn’t fit the role. Why would she think she could portray Ms Simone better than an actor who has the voice, appearance an musical ability for the role. Not takng anything away from Ms Zoe she is an excellent actor. just no for this film.

    • ShelbyMoore

      I agree with everything you said up to the point where you called Zoe an excellent actor…IMO, she really svcks….she’s tired. She can’t act. Have you seen Columbiana or the other rest of mess she’s acted in?

  • India Arie could have been perfect. Or if anyone seen Steel Magnolias with Queen Latifah..actress Adepero Oduye is a good actress. No shade against Zoe, but i can agree with likeness cuz this picture does no justice…she look cracked out a little. Maybe its the picture. lol Just my opinion.

  • Nia

    I love me some Anty Ree, but that pic scared the h3ll out of me!

    • AllyCat

      2 Chinz!

    • patchbran

      me, too. glad someone else mentioned it. lawdy…

  • Mira

    Pot dials phones…Phone rings..
    Kettle: Hello

    Pot: Hey, Kettle.. this is Pot!!

    Aretha is the same person that wants Halle to portray her!!

    • hollyw

      You DO have a point lol…

    • BellaNeish

      Maybe, she thinks Halle looks like her lol

      • AllyCat

        So she is blind and senile then? Poor old age.

    • FromUR2UB

      I think she finally let that go, according to the latest MN report, that is.

    • scandalous7

      ha! right!

    • Will_Tha_Great

      Aretha and Halle look like identical twins to me…I think Halle would be an excellent choice.

      • cj

        Halle and Aretha looking identical ?! wtf ? Its a joke right ?! and im sure Jennifer Hudson will turn the offer to play Aretha down, the woman already struggled to lose this weight, do you all think she wants to get some again ? She already got some oscar soo…

        • Ladybug94

          Halle can pull of a young Aretha, pre weight gain.

    • Mimsy

      Give Zoe a chance.. if Angela Bassett can wear a wig and lip-synch as
      Tina Turner, then why can’t Zoe?! Or Jamie Fox portraying Ray Charles,
      Will Smith as Muhammad Ali..Let’s her her a chance.. And yeah, India
      Arie may looks similar to Miss Simone, maybe her acting skills aren’t up
      to par?? Who knows.. but don’t we complain about singers pretending to
      be actors. example: It’s not like Beyonce trying to portray Etta James
      and just looking like Beyonce in a blonde wig singing an Etta James

      • PeoplePlease7

        Stop giving Hollywood a pass when they make mockeries of Black culture and Black icons. Jimmy iovine has a history of mocking Black people and promoting the worst aspects of Black women using “artists” such as 50 cent, chief keef, etc…. Let’s have more discernment because looking the other way means that Angeline Jolie playing Angela Davis would be no problem or Aston Kutcher playing Nelson Mandela. You had best believe India Arie would never be cast as a historical Jewish icon…

        • MoniqueB

          100% AGREE

        • Kira

          Angelina Jolie portrayed a black woman in a Mighty Heart..Daniel Pearl’s widow. It’s not that serious to slam Zoe.. I hope she does well.

      • Beaujetto Chicks

        honey tina wore wigs too..this is blackface

      • ShelbyMoore

        The difference is Angela is a GREAT actress and Zoe….is NOT.

        • Mimsy

          But she didn’t look like Tina or could sing like Tina.. so I don’t see what the fuss is all about.

        • Dimples

          Zoe isn’t in the same league of talent

    • Child_Puhleez

      LOL @ “this is Pot!” LOL!!!

    • ijs

      wait….wait…halle? come on aretha! lol

    • reese

      I was thinking the same thing. But maybe in her mind they do look alike

    • Ladybug94

      I think she may have wanted Halle to play a younger version of her, of course not after she began gaining weight.

  • I still think they should have given India Arie a chance.she can sing ,play instruments,and she’s a dead ringer for Nina.i don’t know about her acting skills.but Zoe isn’t exactly the greatest actress either.

    • Jonique Burke

      This is who came to mind when I heard they was doing this!

    • No No No

      well the acting is what will make ppl want to actually see it, this movie has already been canned b4 it has even wrapped up. I think they should picked Nicki Micheaux for this role, She is a great actress.

    • ijs

      i was thinking lauryn hill (when she get her stuff together) lauryn can blow! and she has some acting experience

    • Ladybug94

      Zoe looks horrible with that theatrical make up on and it still makes her look like a mixed house negro.