FUNKY BIOPICS: Films on Black Superstars – Hendrix, Franklin and Jackson

FUNKY BIOPICS: Films on Black Superstars – Hendrix, Franklin and Jackson

 

 

It’s official, Andre 3000 of OutKast, real name Andre Benjamin has been cast to portray Jimi Hendrix in the biopic “All Is By My Side.”  Benjamin’s name was mentioned a few years ago about taking on the role, but rumors died after about a month or so.  “All Is By My Side” will be set in the 1960s just before the release of Jimi’s debut album “Are You Experienced.”

The film is supposed to begin shooting any day now in Ireland.  Andre has appeared in the films “Semi-Pro”, “Battle in Seattle”, “Revolver”, “Be Cool”, “Four Brothers” and “Idlewild” along with fellow OutKast member Big Boi.  John Ridley is set to direct, whose previous directing credits include television and one feature that starred David Caruso.  I gotta be frank, I’m concerned, while I’m ecstatic about the life of Hendrix coming to the silver screen, I think it’s vital that all the elements are as they should be.  Aspects that concern me… while I love Andre’s musicianship, I have yet to see him execute a role in a film worth discussing, Hendrix could be the one for him, but we’ll have to wait and see.  Ridley as the director… he simply hasn’t done anything of note in that seat.  However, as a writer he’s definitely eclectic enough to capture the essence of Jimi Hendrix.  Ridley wrote the stories for “Red Tails,” “Undercover Brother” and “Three Kings” and the screenplays for ‘Tails’, ‘Brother’, “U Turn,” and the upcoming “Twelve Years a Slave” and “All Is By My Side.”  Essentially these two men along with supporting cast and crew have to pull off a dramatization of one of the greatest rock stars of all time, that happens to be black — it’s a tall order.  Wood Harris took on the role of Jimi in the Showtime movie “Hendrix.”  It was pretty much a lemon from the gate because they could only use covers of Hendrix’s music.  The Hendrix Foundation did not give their consent to use Jimi’s original music.  The same thing is happening with “All Is By My Side.”  The Hendrix Foundation is not signing off on the music.  This is crucial when bringing the story of an iconic figure to life.  There have been several biopics of legendary rock stars and musicians over the years.  Gary Busey portrayed Buddy Holley, Lou Diamond Phillips was Ritchie Valens in “La Bamba,” it seemed like Jennifer Lopez and Sissy Spacek were born to do “Selena” and “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and Jamie Foxx nailed it portraying Ray Charles in “Ray.”  So expectations for performance are high whenever there’s talk of a biopic being done.  Maybe Ridley and Benjamin can create the same magic that Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro did in their early days — I for am hoping.  I’m sending all my FUNKY energy to the land of Ireland where “All Is By My Side” is being shot.

Beyonce portrayed Etta James and Jeffrey Wright was a young Muddy Waters in the movie “Cadillac Records.”  The story of Chess Records, Adrian Brody portrayed the company founder Leonard Chess.  A film with an ensemble cast and Executive Produced by Beyonce it did okay at the box office, but was not what Hollywood considers a box office hit.  Columbus Short who took on the role of Little Walter steals the movie.  Movies that relay dynamics of an era or depict aspects of a culture in music are always fun to watch nonetheless.  We hope they’ll always be good, but some are just better than others.  Over the years we’ve seen “Dreamgirls”, which is “loosely” based on the story of The Supremes, but was never officially said to be, even when it was a Broadway musical; Purple Rain and 8 Mile are steeped in aspects of their lead stars Prince and Eminem respectively; Robert Townsend called on The Dells to consult him when he shot “The Five Heartbeats”; “The Rose” starring Bette Midler was said to be about Janice Joplin; and “Krush Groove” is the story of the beginnings of Russell Simmons and Def Jam.

According to a press release, Aretha Franklin took interest in award-winning television and stage actress Audra McDonald after seeing her in the new Broadway production of “Porgy and Bess.”  Franklin has been talking about the cast of a film based on her life for months now and at one point was looking at Oscar Award winning actress Halle Berry — Berry declined.  Although no plans are final, the Grammy Award winning singer is looking to finalize matters concerning the film soon.  Taraji P. Henson once told me she’d love to portray the legendary Diana Ross.  A conversation that took place when she was promoting her movie “Talk To Me” and preparing to do “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” opposite Brad Pitt, her Oscar nomination just may be instrumental in making that happen some day.  Diana Ross herself portrayed Billie Holiday in the classic flick “Lady Sings the Blues.”  Produced by Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, the film also starred Billy Dee Williams and Richard Pryor.   Fantasia Barrino is due to star in a biopic on the life of New Orleans-born gospel queen Mahalia Jackson.  That news hit the airwaves last year, and there was talk that Jackson’s family didn’t want her to do it, as she was with a child out of wedlock.  Those rumors were put to rest shortly after being made by the films perspective producers.  No word yet on when and/ or if production will still take place.

Spike Lee announced that Wesley Snipes would be James Brown in his movie about the “Godfather of Soul,” while he was promoting his movie “Miracle at St. Anna.”  Production of that film is TBD.  Tyrese Gibson tweeted recently: “I have officially secured the life rights to the life story of Teddy Pendergrass, my inspiration. This movie will be made…”  more here: http://museumofuncutfunk.com/2012/04/19/tyrese-gets-the-rights-for-teddy/  Jesse L. Martin has been in conversations for years to bring the life story of Marvin Gaye to the silver screen.  The Miles Davis biopic was said to be going to Broadway before it hits movie theaters by Broadway World.  According to Indiewire.com, on May 29th Don Cheadle tweeted: “Dear Everybody, contrary to several internet sites, I am NOT doing in any way shape or form a Broadway play about Miles Davis. Word is bond.”  The bottom line is it ain’t easy, especially when those in the creative seat are beholding to those in the seat with the cash.  Other films that have been produced over the years about iconic musical entertainers include: “Why Do Fools Fall in Love,” which was about Frankie Lymon; “Notorious,” the story of Christopher Wallace; “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” which was about Tina Turner; “Bird,” a re-imagining of the trials and tribulations of jazz great Charlie Parker by Clint Eastwood; “Walk The Line” that told the story of Johnny Cash; and the TV movie “The Jacksons: An American Dream.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the death of Whitney Houston there was talk about several different singers depicting her in a biopic.  Houston’s daughter Bobbi Kristina shut down all rumors saying if anyone would portray her mom in a film, it would be her.  Coming to theaters this summer is the remake of “Sparkle.”  Executive-Produced by and starring Houston, it features new music from the musical treasure whose death stunned the world earlier this year.  American Idol winner Jordin Sparks is cast in the lead role that originally starred Irene Cara.  Cee-Lo Green, Derek Luke, Mike Epps and Michael Beach are also featured in the movie.  You can hear the song “Celebrate” featuring Houston and Sparks from the soundtrack of the film here:

http://www.whitneyhouston.com/us/news/check-out-whitneys-duet-jordin-sparks?cid=nl%3A223240663&utm_medium=email&utm_source=usrca-whitneyhouston&utm_campaign=email-usrca-whitneyhouston-20120524-nl223240663&utm_content=nllink-d4e624a-right%20here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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