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Since the news broke that a biopic about Nina Simone’s life was coming to the big screen,  and that it would be starring Zoe Saldana–an artist much lighter than the pianist/activist, there has been a full-out push-back on the movie and it hasn’t even come out yet. Just last month, Saldana spoke on her disappointment with people’s negative reactions to her casting (and the fact that they darkened her skin, gave her a prosthetic nose and fake teeth to play Simone), and she said it definitely hurt:

“All I can say is, though it did sting for a bit, that a community that you feel most identified with, would have such a negative backlash and you are at the epicenter of it all, it was very disappointing. But at the same time too, it is understandable. All I can say is the people that came together to do Nina, came together out of love for Nina and that will never be wrong, and I will always stand behind that.”

Another person standing behind the film is the director of Nina, Cynthia Mort. And while she claims that she’s not surprised by the backlash, in an interview with theGrio, she says she’s just bothered that people wouldn’t wait to see the film first before judging it so harshly based on casting:

“This was a creative endeavor, and to judge and to hijack a creative endeavor before it’s finished is the only thing I take any issue with. When it’s done you can say whatever you want.”

But she says she is okay with folks questioning the casting, it’s only natural:

“It’s fine. They should. Nina was about how you feel. Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to say she was about some of the stuff that’s going on, but that’s not my business.”

But in her opinion, Zoe is the best choice:

“Zoe’s life vision is very clear, and very strong and very direct. She’s a fantastic actress. She’s brave. She’s courageous and she’s super-talented. She’s astonishing in all of her films, which I don’t say lightly. I think Zoe embodies a lot of the characteristics [that] I was looking for. She’s compelling and she’s fierce and she’s strong and she pulls us in the way Nina’s music pulls us in. You know what? That’s hard to come by.”

What everyone has to remember is that ‘Four Women,’ which everyone has to remember is one of [Nina’s] most powerful songs, is about different shades of four different women.”

Also interviewed about the film for the same article was executive producer Gene Kirkwood (previously behind Get Rich or Die Tryin’), and he believes people are going to have something to say about everything, but no press is truly bad press:

“People don’t like anything. If Jesus Christ walked in here right now, they’d say, ‘Great carpenter, but terrible guy.’ They’ll find something about everything. There’s nothing positive until they see it. Diana Ross was as close to Billie Holiday as you can get, but when [Lady Sings the Blues] came out, they were worried about that[.] With Rocky they said, ‘Who wants to see a fight movie?’ You had to get them in there. There was only one fight in the whole movie. The picture is eventually going to have to make its own track no matter what. But I think every knock is a boost, as long as they’re talking about it.”

Interesting point. Folks had a lot to say about Django, but we see how well that did and was received. But check out her full interview with theGrio and let us know what you think of her comments on the Nina backlash.

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