It was 2007 and Alicia Keys was singing “Diary” at the Hollywood Bowl when inspiration struck writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love and Basketball) for her new movie Beyond the Lights, the tale of a perfectly packaged pop star, played by Belle‘s Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who’s been groomed for stardom from a young age by her overbearing, opportunistic mother (Minnie Driver).
The movie spent years in development while Prince-Bythewood, who helmed 2008’s Secret Life of Bees, argued with Sony Pictures over her lead actress. “The studios wanted a big star, and I wanted the right person for the role,” says Prince-Bythewood, who hired her own casting agent to find Mbatha-Raw. “There is an innate vulnerability in Gugu. And you can sense her star power. That’s what we needed to believe–that she could be Rihanna or Beyonce.” READ FULL STORY