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Tag: Biopics (1-10 of 81)

Why is it so difficult to make a biopic?

UPDATE: On June 29, Lifetime announced Zendaya Coleman would no longer play Aaliyah in the biopic referenced in the article below, and that the production was on hold.

ORIGINAL POST: The recipe for a music biopic should go something like this: Start with a beloved musician; add a string of crowd-pleasing hits; mix in a good dose of backstage drama; hit them with a triumphant and/or fatal finale; roll credits. But actually getting a film into theaters? It’s never been that simple—and as several pending biopics have learned lately, it’s not getting any easier.

For every movie that finds its ideal match (see: Sissy Spacek as country legend Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner’s Daughter or Jennifer Lopez as Tejano music star Selena) there are countless others kneecapped by casting before the first scene is shot. The need for star power, performance chops, and physical resemblance leaves filmmakers with “a lot of boxes to check,” says Debra Marin Chase, exec producer of the upcoming Lifetime biopic Aaliyah: Princess of R&B. (That’s a working title.) Disney starlet Zendaya Coleman, 17, won the role of the beloved R&B singer, who died in a plane crash in 2001 at age 22. “It wasn’t a situation where we cast her because she’s hot,” adds Chase. “She has Aaliyah’s spirit.”

But that decision generated harsh blowback from fans who felt that the biracial teen was too light-skinned for the part—a critique that actress Zoe Saldana has also faced for her titular role in an upcoming, much-delayed Nina Simone biopic. (That casting choice inspired the sarcastic Twitter hashtag #blackbiopics, with users suggesting their own pairings, such as “Robin Thicke as Marvin Gaye.”)

There’s also the question, of course, of the actual songs. Reese Witherspoon might not have won an Oscar for her portrayal of June Carter Cash in 2005’s Walk the Line if filmmakers hadn’t gotten the rights to her and her husband Johnny Cash’s famous catalogs. Securing the music rights is often a lengthy and costly endeavor, and may even stop or halt production—as it nearly did for Jimi Hendrix biopic All Is by My Side, due out this year. Experience Hendrix LLC (headed by the late rock icon’s sister, Janie) declined to license any of his music, leading writer-director John Ridley to frame his movie as an impressionistic art-house drama focusing on the brief period Hendrix (played by OutKast’s André Benjamin) spent in London—and ending just before his breakout moment at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. “This is a story about relationships,” Ridley told EW earlier this year. “If there are folks who just want the music, there are record stores for that.”

Focusing on a particular time is one way filmmakers work around the myriad biopic obstacles. Angela Bassett will make her directorial debut with an upcoming Lifetime movie about Whitney Houston, and she’s limiting it to the singer’s early years and her relationship with singer Bobby Brown. There will be no depiction of Houston’s later downward spiral or her death at 48. “I really just want to tell a story about a boy and a girl who fell in love,” Bassett, who recently began filming with lead actress (and America’s Next Top Model alum) Yaya DaCosta, tells EW. “We’re not interested in dragging her life again through the muck.”

That’s not to say that drugs will be completely absent in Whitney Houston: ”We can’t tell their story without it,” says Bassett. The traits that so often accompany great talents—depression, drug abuse, the general danger of a life lived at full throttle—also make for good drama. But an unflinching, warts-and-all portrayal can alienate the subject’s family; that’s one of the rumored reasons that long-awaited films on Gaye and Janis Joplin have yet to emerge from seemingly endless turnaround. (A rep for Lee Daniels, the latest in a long line of directors who have attempted to transfer Joplin’s life to the big screen, declined to comment for this story.)

With major studio financing increasingly difficult to secure, some filmmakers are taking matters in their own hands. Don Cheadle launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funding for a film on jazz legend Miles Davis, which he plans to direct and star in. “If we weren’t crowdfunding, we would have to cut out scenes or characters that we feel really need to be in the movie,” Cheadle has said of the project. A biopic on Hank Williams starring Thor’s Tom Hiddleston is still in the works, though his grandson Hank Williams III has reportedly expressed displeasure at having a Brit play the role. Midnight Rider, the story of rocker Gregg Allman, is on hold following a tragic train crash that killed 27-year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones in February. (The film’s lead, William Hurt, dropped out of in April.)

And yet filmmakers aren’t giving up. Universal has the James Brown biopic Get On Up (out Aug. 1) and it just slated Straight Outta Compton, about N.W.A. rappers Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and the late Easy-E, for release next year. There are also reportedly projects in development about Kurt Cobain, Tupac Shakur, Iggy Pop, David Bowie, and Freddie Mercury. After all, there are lots of great true stories to tell—if only Hollywood can figure out how to tell them.

Danny Strong to direct Salinger biopic

Danny Strong, the screenwriter who penned the scripts for The Butler and the next two Hunger Games films, will make his directorial debut with Salinger’s War.

As first reported by the Hollywood Reporter, Strong had optioned Kenneth Slawensk’s biography about the Catcher in the Rye author, J.D. Salinger: A Life, and wrote the screenplay on spec. The adaptation will focus on a younger Salinger, an ambitious New York writer who is pulled into World War II after Pearl Harbor and encounters horrors in Europe that will forever change him and his writing.

Strong won two Emmys for the HBO movie Game Change, and fans of Mad Men know him as the diminutive Danny Siegel, who famously popped Roger Sterling in the groin. As an actor, Strong also had memorable runs on Gilmore Girls and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Filmmaker Shane Salerno, who directed a recent documentary about Salinger, is currently working on a rival biopic with The Weinstein Company.

 

'Yves Saint Laurent' trailer: 'Genius comes at a price' -- VIDEO

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Of course the trailer for the Yves Saint Laurent biopic is elegant.

At times it’s also free-spirited and dark, offering a glimpse at the fashion icon’s highs and lows. Directed by Jalil Lespert, Yves Saint Laurent stars Pierre Niney as the revolutionary designer whose fabulous, jet-set life is marred by nervous breakdowns and drug use. “Genius comes at a price,” the trailer tells us: READ FULL STORY

'Get On Up' trailer: The evolution of James Brown -- VIDEO

Who’s ready to feel good?

The Help director Tate Taylor has teamed up with 42‘s Chadwick Boseman for Get On Up, a film that tells the life story of Mr. James Brown, the Godfather of Soul. In the film’s trailer, we see bits and pieces of every part of Brown’s life, including a stint in prison, his start in the music business, a dangerous visit to Vietnam, and, of course, megastardom.

Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Nelsan Ellis, Lennie James, Tika Sumpter, Jill Scott, and Dan Aykroyd also star.

Watch the trailer below:

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Don Cheadle to play Miles Davis in long-planned biopic

Don Cheadle will play Miles Davis in a biopic the actor has long planned on the innovative jazz pioneer.

BiFrost Pictures told The Associated Press on Wednesday that it will finance and produce Kill the Trumpet Player, with Cheadle also making his directorial debut. Cheadle has been trying to make the film for years. Production is finally set to begin in June.

The production company said the movie will focus on when Davis temporarily retired from making music and then re-emerged in 1979. The script is written by Cheadle and Steven Baigelman.

Ewan McGregor will co-star as a Rolling Stone reporter, and Zoe Saldana will play Frances Davis, the trumpet player’s former wife. Davis collaborator Herbie Hancock will be involved in the production.

Davis died in 1991 at age 65.

'Mandela' to screen for President Obama at White House

Mandela

The Nelson Mandela biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom will get an audience from President Barack Obama, as well as a screening at the Kennedy Center hosted by Hillary Clinton.

The Weinstein Co. tells The Associated Press that Obama will screen the film Thursday at the White House. Mandela’s daughters Zindzi and Zenani Mandela will join, as will the film’s stars, Idris Elba and Naomie Harris.

The film will also screen Nov. 20 at the Kennedy Center, with Clinton hosting the gala.

Though there have been other films about the former South African president, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom has long had Mandela’s approval and the cooperation of his family. It premiered Sunday in Johannesburg with much of Mandela’s family in attendance.

Mandela opens in U.S. theaters Nov. 29.

John Belushi's widow on the new biopic: It's a 'beautiful bromance' between Belushi and Aykroyd

John Belushi was a comedy comet. There was no one else like him, and his bright flight was amazing to behold — until it tragically flamed out in 1982 when he died of a drug overdose. A dozen filmmakers could make a dozen different interesting movies about his life and times, especially since he — more than probably any other Saturday Night Live alum — helped define what that now-iconic show would be. In 1989, Michael Chiklis starred as Belushi in Wired, a poorly received effort that featured Belushi’s ghost reflecting on his life to biographer Bob Woodward. The energetic comedian deserved better.

On Monday, it was announced that Emile Hirsch would portray Belushi in a new biopic from writer/director Steve Conrad (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty). Among its producers are Dan Aykroyd, Belushi’s close friend and frequent co-star, and Belushi’s widow, Judy Belushi Pisano, whose 2005 oral-history biography (co-written with Tanner Colby) is the foundation for Conrad’s movie. She spoke with EW to discuss the movie, the surprising casting of Hirsch, and which SNL stars are sure to be portrayed in the film. (Hint: Not many.)
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Tom Hardy will play Elton John in biopic 'Rocketman'

Bane is ready to ditch his mask for rose-colored glasses.

Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises, Inception) has signed on to play Elton John in Rocket Pictures’ biopic Rocketman, which will be released in the U.S. by Focus Features.

Rocketman will tell John’s legendary story, from his childhood to his unbelievable rise to fame. John is set to re-record a number of his biggest hits to match the emotional moments in the film, which will be directed by Michael Gracey, the man behind the upcoming film The Greatest Showman on Earth starring Hugh Jackman.

With an original screenplay written by Academy Award nominee Lee Hall (War Horse), Rocketman is scheduled to start shooting in fall 2014.

Leonardo DiCaprio's next history project? Woodrow Wilson.

Leonardo DiCaprio, who portrayed longtime FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and squirrelly billionaire Howard Hughes, is digging into early 20th-century history books again for another big-screen biopic. The Great Gatsby star is in talks to produce and possibly star in a Warner Bros. movie about Woodrow Wilson, the 28th U.S. president, who guided the country through World War I and established many of the progressive policies and bureaucracies that still define American government 100 years later.

Warner Bros. is interested in optioning a recent biography from Pulitzer-winning writer A. Scott Berg (Lindbergh), who spent 12 years digging into Wilson’s life and presidential record, one that has long been overshadowed by the liberal New Deal policies of his spiritual successor, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Wilson was a proud Southerner whose views on race reflected his family’s Confederate sympathies during the Civil War, a college professor who became president of Princeton University before entering politics, and a shrewd politician who was re-elected president in 1916 by promising to keep America out of World War I — and then almost immediately entered the war against Germany and her allies. As the war came to a close and he became the leading proponent for a League of Nations, a peace-keeping organization that Congress ultimately voted against joining, he suffered a debilitating stroke that was hidden from the public and left his wife secretly making presidential decisions.
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The nasty curveball of '42': Alan Tudyk puts an unexpected face on racism

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Fans of Suburgatory and Firefly know actor Alan Tudyk as the actor with an open face and daft smile while the audiences that saw I, Robot remember the humanity he invested in a character of man-made machinery. This weekend, however, the audiences that sat down in the dark for the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 saw a startling new aspect of the 42-year-old actor’s craft. Playing Philadelphia Phillies manager Ben Chapman, who more than any other character in the film embodies the angry face and venomous voice of mid-century racism in America, Tudyk taunts Robinson (newcomer Chadwick Boseman) with a relentless geyser of vile and humiliating epithets.

“The way Brian saw this role and the reason he wanted me in the role [was] he didn’t want a straight-up villain,” says Tudyk, who has been good friends with writer/director Brian Helgeland since working together on the medieval adventure A Knights Tale. “He didn’t want the kind of the guy that everybody sees come on screen and the minute they see him they say, ‘Oh, I hate this guy.’ He wanted somebody that might be funny. If you read up on it and go back, the people who knew Ben Chapman really liked him, they thought he was a good guy. He wasn’t viewed as a villain. When he comes up out of the dugout and yells all these insults, there’s a lot of it that he’s doing to entertain his players and it has this schoolyard quality to it: ‘You doing a little dance for us, ‘Jangles? You can do it, can’t you? You can dance, you got rhythm.'” READ FULL STORY

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