All Articles Tagged "Nina Simone Biopic"
The adage “all press is good press” couldn’t be further from the truth. Just ask Zoe Saldana, star of the upcoming biopic Nina, about the late iconic singer and activist Nina Simone. Saldana’s involvement in the film, which over the years has been labeled “doomed,” “troubled” and “controversial,” has been widely criticized. The film has been mired by a petition to remove Saldana, a lawsuit from its director, Cynthia Mort, against the movie’s backers, and according to the actress in a recent interview with Latina, mismanagement.
In the telling interview, Saldana stated that “Nina deserves better,” and revealed that she hasn’t been able to listen to the singer’s music since working on the project. But here’s where I get a little confused: “I’ll be able to listen to her and not feel so heartbroken,” said Saldana, “once I either finish this movie and release it, knowing that we did the best we could, or this movie goes away.” Then in the next breath, Saldana claims that she’s still fighting for the film.
Color me confused.
Granted, a lot of factors about the movie and its release are completely out of Saldana’s control, but this take it or leave it stance seems oddly…familiar.
In fact, it’s the same stance she took when considering the role in the first place. Saldana publicly admitted that she didn’t think she was the right actress to portray Simone. She actually turned down the role for a year before changing her mind. Then, when Simone fans and critics voiced their opinions on her casting, claiming the film’s producers should find a more authentic representation of Simone’s physical likeness, considering how much that informed the music she created and indeed the life she lived, Saldana was quick to brush off naysayers and defend her decision. Now she wouldn’t feel any type of way if the film were to “go away”?
Now, I am not the Blackness police, nor am I a believer in the tired my-Black-is-blacker-than-your-Black debate. But I do understand the concern initially raised regarding Saldana’s involvement. Why cast her when there are so many capable actresses who more closely resemble Simone’s likeness, and don’t need makeup or a prosthetic nose to achieve the look? To me, the uproar spoke more to Hollywood’s penchant for casting Black actresses with fairer skin tones, and not Saldana’s actual acting ability. Yet there was also a part of me that considered Saldana’s decision to play such an iconic woman brave. To tackle a challenge you’re not sure you can handle because of your love for a figure, and with so many judging eyes on you, is rather commendable. That doesn’t negate, however, my concern regarding Saldana’s integrity that, along with many other factors, seems to have compromised the movie. And that’s what’s actually important here.
Was Saldana allowed to change her mind and to take on the role of Nina Simone? Absolutely. And I don’t doubt that she put her all into her performance. But the back and forth in this saga, this never-ending story about the film’s production that has overshadowed what it supposedly intends to do, is troubling to Simone’s legacy. This is an opportunity to introduce Simone and her music to those unaware of her tremendous contributions to our musical, political and social landscape. It couldn’t be more timely. That’s why I believe Saldana was right in saying that Simone deserves better. That’s exactly why Lisa Simone Kelly, the singer’s daughter, fully supported the documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone? She was an executive producer on the film and felt it authentically represented her mother’s life. And unlike Nina, which utilized a composite character based on Simone’s manager Clifton Henderson and a former nurse, the documentary is factually-based. Plus, it had Kelly’s full support and made use of her personal knowledge of her late mother.
I wonder if there would have been such an uproar if Mary J. Blige, who was initially attached to play Simone, was in the film. Blige is an actual singer but one with little acting experience. People probably would have questioned her ability to play such an iconic, troubling, rebel figure, and that could have rubbed fans the wrong way. But the fact remains that Nina, which is supposed to be released in December, has already put a bad taste in the mouths of future viewers and made a name for itself that does Simone a disservice. The only way to truly gauge its worth is to watch it for ourselves. If Nina sees the light of day, I hope, for Simone’s legacy, it’s well worth the wait.
Have you been wondering what happened with the Nina Simone biopic, starring Zoe Saldana? We haven’t either. But in a recent interview with Latina, Saldana explained why it’s taken so long to get the project off the ground.
First, she explained how she prepared for the role of Simone:
“I read as much as I could and spoke to as many people who knew her, who interviewed her. I listened to her voice, to her tone. She was angry, and rightfully so. She was a black woman born ahead of her time. Her soul, her spirit was never able to accept or adapt to the heartbreaks that life was giving her. Those are means for insanity. She was bipolar, and at that time, very little was known about bipolar disorder. A lot of people were self-medicating through substances, and she was doing it with alcohol. I wanted to understand all those things, and see what that was going to bring out of me. I never wanted to judge her.”
And though she felt she had prepared herself for this complex character, there were many people who took issue with Saldana being cast as the darker complected Simone, particularly when she took great pains fighting for representation of Black women and Black people in society. Nina Simone’s daughter, who goes by the name Simone, even told Ebony, that she was sure issues of colorism stayed with her mother throughout her life, as she was told she was “too dark” and her nose was “too wide.” All of this makes the casting tragically ironic, particularly when the shots of Saldana in makeup are absolutely distracting.
In addition to the criticism, according to Salana, there are some behind the scenes issues that have kept the film from being released.
“I needed to walk her path. As a woman, it wasn’t difficult to empathize with another woman. But I needed to be very isolated. I moved out of my house for three months. I wasn’t really talking to anybody that I knew. I just needed to be all things Nina. It was so intense, and everything happened really fast. The people behind the project weren’t my cup of tea. The director was fine, but there was a lot of mismanagement, which is why we’re still here three years later. And I’m still trying to fight with everybody to get the movie finished. Nina deserves better.”
A part of me feels sorry for Saldana. It seems like she was surrounded by a large number of people who were, and apparently, still are unequipped to tell this story. And from the looks of things, it seems like the universe doesn’t even want this film to come out. In that regard, Nina Simone certainly does deserve better.
What do you think about the upcoming biopic? Do Saldana’s comments surprise you?
The Nina Simone biopic starring Zoe Saldana will be released in theaters this year.
According to Variety, BET Founder Robert L. Johnson’s RLJ Entertainment announced Thursday that they have acquired the North American rights to Nina.
Award-winning actor, David Oyelowo, has been cast to play Simone’s manager, Clifton Henderson. As previously reported, the film was written and directed by Cynthia Mort.
“I had the special privilege early in my career of working with Ms. Simone while coordinating a performance for former D.C. Delegate Walter E. Fauntroy, and knowing first-hand of her major contribution to the soul and emotion of the Civil Rights Movement,” Johnson said at the Toronto Film Festival. “I look forward as I am sure many others will, to her story and legacy being made available by RLJ Entertainment to consumers on various media platforms in the coming months.”
Nina has been in the making for years, and the project has been at the center of controversy since it was announced that Saldana would be playing the singer. Many felt that casting directors made a huge mistake when giving the mother of two the role primarily because she looks nothing like Simone, and expressed that it was offensive for them to cast Saldana instead of simply seeking out a darker skinned actress. For a more convincing presentation, makeup artists had to darken Saldana’s skin. According to some reports, she was also given a prosthetic nose and false teeth.
The firm is planning for a December 2015 release.
By Asha Boston
“So I’m not even being considered to audition for a role because I am ‘too dark’,” tweeted actress Imani Hakim. The former “Everybody Hates Chris” star took to Twitter in mid-July to express her disappointment with the entertainment industry, and to put a spotlight on the issue of colorism in casting. “To think I am almost a perfect match for this role but the slight difference in skin complexion is holding me back I AM mind blown!”
Colorism itself is definitely a mind-blowing concept that continuously shows itself in pop culture. We’ve seen this troubling issue play out in the recent casting controversy for the NWA biopic. Black women and women in general were ranked in alphabetical order based on their features. Women of a lighter complexion were given a B rating while “poor, not in good shape” African-American women of a “medium to dark skin tone” were ranked with a D in the search for extras for the biopic.
Just earlier this month we saw a plethora of Aaliyah and Missy Elliot fans speak out on their disappointment with the casting of Chattrisse Dolabaille (who is of a lighter complexion with curly hair) as Missy Elliott in the upcoming Aaliyah biopic. While there wasn’t much research done or commentary shared on her acting ability, the public made it clear that it will take more than a garbage bag jumpsuit and some finger waves to get Dolabaille anywhere near the likeness of Elliott. It took Black Twitter no time to conjure up the hashtag #LifetimeCastings, which poked fun at the idea of actors being cast as notable figures they look nothing like. As ridiculous of an idea as it may seem for Justin Bieber to play R. Kelly or Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen to play Mary Mary, the trending topic proved that Elliott fans felt somewhat slighted, and moviegoers in general found the casting choice to be a highly questionable one. What’s the excuse for not being able to find an equally talented actress of a darker complexion to take on the role?
This same question was asked in 2012 with the casting of Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone in the biopic Nina. Lisa Simone Kelly, daughter of the late singer/songwriter/pianist expressed her disapproval with Saldana’s casting in an article published for the New York Times:
“My mother was raised at a time when she was told her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark…Appearance-wise this is not the best choice.”
After a slew of criticism came her way and was aimed at the production as a whole, Saldana opened up about her commitment to the role.
“Just like everybody else I feel very strongly about Nina Simone, and that (this) was a story that needed to be told.
I do believe that if everybody had more information about how this all came to be, it might help. But then again, I’m not here to get the acceptance of people. I’m here to be an artist first.”
A similar criticism about colorism and the importance of skin complexion in casting occurred when Christian Bale was chosen to play Moses, and Joel Edgerton to play Rhamses in the upcoming film, Exodus: Gods and Kings. It popped up again when Jacqueline Fleming was chosen to play Harriet Tubman, and side-eyes were given when Aurora Perrineau was pegged to play Shana in new Jem and the Holograms film. But sometimes in casting, especially for men, complexion differences between an actor and the public figure they are portraying don’t hurt a film. Think of the casting of Idris Elba as Nelson Mandela in A Long Walk to Freedom. While his casting raised eyebrows because of his lack of physical similarities with Mandela, his portrayal of the man was applauded, and earned him a Golden Globe nomination. But for the most part, such casting choices aren’t applauded, but rather, balked at. It’s clear that many casting decisions are made in the best interest of helping a film make money, but in the process of doing that, the image of iconic figures are being carelessly altered for a studio’s convenience.
But what are your thoughts? Do you think that it’s important to give roles to people who actually look like the person they’re hoping to portray when it comes to skin complexion?
‘I Don’t Want To Need Things… I Don’t Need Anybody:’ Zoe Saldana Tells ‘Latina’ A Man Is Not A Necessity
Colombiana actress Zoe Saldana looks stunningly fabulous on the May 2013 cover of Latina Magazine. Her brightly colored, bold ensemble seems quite fitting for the occasion, as Ms. Saldana comes off rather audacious and a tad bit feisty in her interview. The 34-year-old Star Trek Into Darkness star touched on everything from her alleged mental breakdown to the reoccurring discussion of why she should not have been cast to play Nina Simone in the forthcoming biopic. Peep some of what she had to say below.
On her mental meltdown following filming for Avatar:
“That was completely blown out of proportion. That was so exaggerated and so ridiculous. It’s no different than what a child does after you’ve had a birthday party for a child. The child has been so stimulated by everybody, in every direction, consistently, you feel depleted. You use so much serotonin that you feel, not empty, but you feel a little tired and depleted and you have to fill your well of energy and of happiness and you have to pay attention to you. That downtime was very welcoming and very beautiful, but it wasn’t like I got f****** depressed and I just wouldn’t get out of bed. That has never happened to me! I hate when you say something and then it’s like, ay dios mio…”
On whether or not she was affected by the Nina Simone Controversy:
“Yes, of course. I’m not made of metal. Things will resonate in you and they will move you whether good or bad, but you can’t let that define who you are and you can’t let that dictate the path that you’re going to take in your life. The reality is that nobody knows the story as to why this collaboration came to be—nobody knows the full story—and at the end of the day all I’m going to say is that every person that is a part of this project came together for no other reason than the unconditional love for Nina Simone’s music, her persona, her life, what she did, what she left for us, what her music still continues to do not only to women, but to Americans, and African Americans, and also people of color, just everything. On all spectrums, Nina Simone’s story is worth telling and with the members that it came to be, like it’s just…you have to give it a chance…Watch it and then make up your mind. I’m happy that we all held together and we went for it. No regrets.”
On growing up “color-blind:”
“I grew up in Queens and the Dominican Republic. It wasn’t easy, s*** was going on. But the kind of world that we had indoors, that my mom created for us, makes more sense to this day than what is out there. I would come home from school and go, ‘Mami, what am I? You know, cause I’m getting all kinds of things and people are mean.’ And Mami would look at me and go, ‘You’re Zoe.’ And I’d go, ‘I know, Mami, but what am I?’ and she would look at me and say, ‘You’re my daughter, your grandma’s granddaughter, you’re Zoe.’ My mom wouldn’t go, ‘tu eres una mujer de color [you are a woman of color] and always remember it, this world is going to be rough.’ My mom never f****** told us that, why would she? Why would she stop my flight before I even take off?”
On not needing a man:
“I don’t want to need things. I need water, you know what I’m saying? I need to exercise, I need to eat. To be with a man, should be a want. I don’t need anybody. And the people that I do need are just family, tu entiendes [you understand]? But a man is something that I want, I want be with a partner, because this partner is going to add or I’m going to add to this partner.”
Turn the page for more fabulous flicks from Zoe’s colorful photoshoot.
Zoe Saldana Isn’t Allowing Your Opinions About The Nina Simone Biopic To Deter Her, Says She’s Doing It For Her ‘People’
Actress Zoe Saldana has been forced to bear the brunt of much criticism since it was announced that she was the actress selected to play iconic singer Nina Simone in the long-awaited motion picture about her life. Fans and celebrities alike have publicly voiced their disapproval of Zoe assuming the role of the singer, especially when photos of the actress on the movie set, all dressed up (and painted up) in her Nina costume surfaced.
“So today I saw the images of Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone… and I think they are ridiculous! Yes there should be a movie made, and YES they should have chosen someone who LOOKS like Nina Simone, ESPECIALLY since her RACE played such a PIVOTAL role in WHO, WHAT and WHY, she was. THAT ASIDE for a second, this just looks WEIRD, it looks like a person in Black(er) face with a fake nose … REALLY?!!!! DOES NOT THE ONE NINA SIMONE’S LEGACY DESERVE BETTER THAN THIS?” singer India Arie expressed.
While public frustration can certainly be understood, Zoe has been hired to play the role of Nina Simone and she still has a job to do, whether we like it or not. Hip Hollywood recently caught up with the actress to discuss the intense level of criticism that she has received for her role in the biopic. Here’s what she had to say:
“The reality is what keeps me focused and what kept me from I guess getting stressed or being hurt by the comments is that I’m doing it for my sisters. I’m doing it for my brothers. I don’t care who tells me that I am not this and I am not that. I know who I am and I know what Nina Simone means to me. So that is my truth and that set me free. You know, I can only rely on that and maintain as much humility as possible so that when I have to face the world and I have to then give the movie to the world to see and share it with them, that if it comes back in a negative fashion or positive, I’m gonna keep my chin up because that’s who I am and that’s who I’ll be and Nina was like that too. So I did it all out of love, out of love for Nina, out of love for my people and who I am and my pride of being Black woman and a Latina woman and an American woman and that’s my truth.”
What are your thoughts on Zoe’s response? Does she make valid points or did she totally miss the reason why people are upset?
You can check out a clip of Zoe’s interview on the next page.
In the midst of creating a laundry list of reasons why Zoe Saldana should not play Nina Simone in the upcoming controversial biopic on the singer, people have been throwing out a number of more suitable, shall we say, actresses who could have played the part. Among the numerous suggestions, India Aire’s name has consistently been included in the pool of potential replacements should director Cynthia Mort have a wake up call, and for the first time the neo-soul singer is speaking out on how she feels about this entire project.
In a post on NinaSimone.com, India put forth some rather candid opinions about the casting of this film, but more so the attempt to make Zoe over into Nina, which after seeing pics of the transformation, India says is utterly “ridiculous.”
People have been asking me for weeks, months, years about a Nina Simone movie, when I heard about Zoe Saldana being cast I reserved judgement, you NEVER know what People are MEANT to do.
SO TODAY I saw the images of Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone…
AND I THINK THEY ARE RIDICULOUS!
Yes there should be a movie made, and YES they should have chosen someone who LOOKS like Nina Simone, ESPECIALLY since her RACE played such a PIVOTAL role in WHO, WHAT and WHY, she was.
THAT ASIDE for a second, this just looks WEIRD, it looks like a person in Black(er) face with a fake nose … REALLY?!!!!
DOES NOT THE ONE NINA SIMONE’S LEGACY DESERVE BETTER THAN THIS?
If they were going to pick a person who looks NOTHING like Nina Simone … why not her daughter Simone *shrug* just saying …
As hard as Nina had to fight for what she wanted BECAUSE she was black and looked the way she did … THIS looks like a parody. If it has to be FORCED this hard something’s not right!
I am VERY opinionated about music, I can dissect VOCALS ALL DAY, I don’t KNOW ACTING LIKE THAT! But I trust that through her obvious admiration of Nina, that Zoe Saldana can pull off the portrayal ENERGETICALLY …
But these images … just make me feel … SAD. Not because I want to play Nina Simone but because IT FEELS OUT OF PLACE WITH WHAT NINA SIMONE MEANS IN AN AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORICAL CONTEXT!!!! (yes I yelled just now – I am emotional about OTHER things today, and I’m riding the wave of that, but this IS WHAT I FEEL…)
I have always been OPEN to playing Nina, but I never saw its as my RIGHT!
I am clearly Nina Simone’s Physical Heir Apparent, THAT doesn’t mean I SHOULD play her, its been tossed around A LOT, for a LONG TIME. I back down because I feel her legacy deserves better than a FIRST TIME MOVIE ACTRESS, I’m like that about my heroes. If I ever FELT I was truly CALLED to play her, I would. And maybe Zoe Saldana REALLY is BEING CALLED SPIRITUALLY TO PLAY THIS ROLE …
But I DO NOT LIKE these PICTURES. AT ALL.
SEEING Nina Simone changed my life, when I was 17 My cousin and I tried to call her … Whole NOTHER story ….
I will END this by saying I think VIOLA DAVIS should be playing Nina Simone.
I don’t think there’s much else to say. Do you agree with India’s sentiments?
Last week we showed you a few preliminary pics of Zoe Saldana’s transformation toward becoming the Nina Simone and from the looks of some new pics that have hit the Internet, the process appears to be complete. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing, I’ll let you decide.
The good news is the prosthetic nose and new teeth are still there, the afro has been trimmed, and Zoe’s skin has been darkened. Is she a dead ringer for Nina? Not exactly. Can she pass with independent film special effects and lighting? Probably.
Though we’ve heard a great deal from Cynthia Mort, the director behind this project, and Nina Simone’s own daughter, Simone, one person who hasn’t said a thing about this lead role is Zoe Saldana herself. Perhaps she plans to just let her work speak for herself rather than answer the critics directly, as there are quite a few of them. Who knows, maybe she can blow this part out of the park.
Here’s another look at Zoe’s transformation. Shadow and Act has a few new photos as well. What do you think?
From the looks of things, i.e. set photos, it appears the Nina Simone biopic is going forward with Zoe Saldana playing the lead part. Shadow and Act published a couple of photos they obtained from the set of the new film and what we see so far is pretty interesting.
As the site notes, no one is sure during which stage of the makeup process these candids were captured, but they do reveal some telling bits of the actress’s transformation. On the positive side, Zoe will be donning the afro which Nina was so fond of in the flick and it also appears teeth and a nose fashioned after the multi-faceted singer’s have been created for the actress as well. What remains to be seen is whether Zoe’s skin, which has been the major point of contention for her choice as the lead, will be darkened. I imagine if the artists have taken these other elements of Nina into consideration, they won’t neglect that detail, and it looks as though there is some darkening around Zoe’s neck in these pics. But you never know.
Makeup job aside, in addition to details that Mike Epps is joining the cast as Richard Pryor. It’s also been announced that David Oyelowo has been cast as Nina’s manager, Clifton Henderson, whom according to the NY Times will be portrayed as having some sort of romantic relationship with her — much to the singer’s daughter, Simone Kelly’s, disappointment. So yes, more creative licensing to come.
But for now let’s just stick with what we see before us. What do you think of Zoe’s Nina Simone look so far?
The cast of the upcoming Nina Simone biopic just got more interesting. Confusion and downright opposition from some over Zoe Saldana playing the singer has hardly subsided, but now there’s word Mike Epps will be playing the role of Richard Pryor in the flick.
According to The Hollywood Reporter:
Cynthia Mort wrote the script and is directing the drama, which traces Simone’s ascent to stardom and her relationship with her Paris-based manager Clifton Henderson, played by David Oyelowo.
In a supporting role, Epps will play Pryor, who opened for the singer when they two were starting out in the early 1960s. Pryor had terrible stage fright and Simone, in her autobiography, recalled how she regularly rocked him into calmness.
Shadow and Act obtained the casting call sheet for the role of Pryor which was to be played by an actor between 40 and 60, under this guise:
Well you all know him and his brilliance is hard to find but show us what you got for this one. He was friends with Nina and performed at the same venue with her when they were younger. Richard, like Nina, had a particular kind of brilliance, wit and edge.
Mike definitely has all the qualities wrapped up in that last sentence, and according to some he was the best thing about the movie “Sparkle.” If he can bring that edginess to this role this could be another breakout part for him, assuming this film does come to life.
Do you think Mike Epps can pull off Richard Pryor?