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See a trippy poster for Jimi Hendrix biopic 'All Is By My Side'

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If you’re going to make a movie about Jimi Hendrix that can’t actually include his most popular music, you best capture the Jimi Hendrix experience—how it looked and felt to be in the same rooms and on the same stages with him. In Jimi: All Is By My Side, André Benjamin plays the magnetic 1960s rock god, and 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley, who wrote and directed, re-creates the psychedelic buzz around him during his days in London, just as the first jolts of his fame struck.

The new poster art for the film underlines that trippy, technicolor vibe. READ FULL STORY

Video: First trailer for Jimi Hendrix biopic 'Jimi: All Is By My Side'

Make this Fourth of July weekend all about Jimi Hendrix. First, head to YouTube and listen to the legendary guitarist’s epic rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Seriously, it’s a must.

And then watch the Jimi: All Is By My Side trailer below, the first trailer for the upcoming Hendrix biopic starring Outkast’s Andre Benjamin:

Jimi: All Is By My Side is set to hit theaters Sept. 26. And if you ignored us the first time, seriously, listen to this version of the national anthem:

SXSW: A Jimi Hendrix movie without Jimi Hendrix music?

In his directorial feature debut Jimi: All Is By My Side, John Ridley attempts the seemingly impossible. By zeroing in on the year before guitar giant Jimi Hendrix (played with grace by Outkast’s Andre Benjamin) skyrocketed into fame, Ridley — who just won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for 12 Years a Slave — tells the man’s story without the aid of his legendary music. (Hendrix’s estate refused, like it did with past directors such as Paul Greengrass and the Hughes brothers, to grant rights to the music.) Asked how Ridley will battle the reflexive disappointment Hendrix fans might feel about the prospect of a biopic without “Hey Joe” or “Purple Haze,” he says you simply don’t. “If there are folks who just want the music, there are record stores and they should absolutely go out and do that,” said Ridley in anticipation of the U.S. premiere Wednesday night at SXSW. “You can’t battle folks who come in with a certain mind-set about a film. There’s always going to be folks, like look at 12 Years, I wish I could go to a lot of folks and say, ‘I’m not trying to preach to you about history, I’m not trying to indict you if you happen to be white, I’m not trying to victimize if you’re black, it’s a beautiful story.’” READ FULL STORY

Andre Benjamin is Jimi Hendrix: See the singer's soft side in first 'All is By My Side' clip -- EXCLUSIVE

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Filmmakers have been trying to bring Jimi Hendrix’s life to the big screen for decades, and with JIMI: All is By My Side, John Ridley has finally succeeded where directors Paul Greengrass and the Hughes brothers had been stymied in recent years. The Oscar-winning screenwriter of 12 Years a Slave brought the iconic rock star, who died in 1970 at the age of 27, back to life with the help of André Benjamin. The movie didn’t have the support of the Hendrix estate so it makes do without his music, but critics nevertheless applauded when the biopic debuted at last fall’s Toronto Film Festival. The movie makes its U.S. debut on March 12 at SXSW.

All Is By My Side tells the Hendrix’s in the year before he became a rock legend, when he was still a back-up guitarist named Jimmy James playing dingy New York clubs. A well-connected groupie named Linda Keith, however, sees in him something special. She brings him to 1966 London, where Jimmy transforms into Jimi. Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll ensue. The film culminates with Hendrix being invited to the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, the historic all-star concert that made him an icon.

In an exclusive clip from the film, Jimi and Linda (Imogen Poots) have a heart-to-heart before he flies to California. They’re no longer together, but he wrote a song about her, he says. Linda, however, is the kind of gal that inspires lots of rock songs: Keith Richards penned “Ruby Tuesday” about her. In the clip below, you can sort of see why.
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Toronto 2013: Andre Benjamin plays Jimi Hendrix in a very novel biopic

I’m a sucker for biopics and always have been, but I understand why they’re often thought of as a second-rate form. In a sense, each one is trying to tell two stories at once: the chronicle of its subject’s artistic or political or whatever other worldly achievement (the thing that made us hungry to see a biopic about him or her in the first place), and, at the same time, the private, tumultuous “human drama” of it all. Given that these two dimensions can’t really be separated, and that you have to cram both of them into two hours, it’s amazing, when you think about it, that the best biopics, from Lenny (1974) to Kinsey (2004) to Malcolm X (1992) to Sweet Dreams (1985) to Milk (2008)  to Ed Wood (1994) to Ray (2004), are as rich and full and authentic as they are. Nevertheless, I think that the hyper scrutiny of the “reality” era, when the lives of celebrities (including dead ones) are more subject to exposure than ever before, has made us all a little suspect of the tidiness, the compressions, the convenient fictionalizations, the cut corners that are an essential element of almost any biopic. The good ones are told with more explicitness and authenticity than they used to be, but as a basic form, the biopic now seems cornier than ever. We can see through it, even as we’re hooked on it. READ FULL STORY

Andre 3000 channels Jimi Hendrix in 'All Is By My Side' -- PHOTO

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Music biopic fans were dealt a serious blow yesterday when news broke that Sacha Baron Cohen had dropped out of a long-planned film about Freddie Mercury. Thankfully, they’ve still got something else to look forward to: All Is By My Side, a film that covers Jimi Hendrix’s early years (and, interestingly enough, doesn’t actually feature any of Hendrix’s famous songs).

Outkast’s André 3000 — a.k.a. André Benjamin — will play the Seattle-born guitar virtuoso as a struggling musician in London, shortly before the release of Are You Experienced, the album that would be his big break. The movie is set to debut at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival — and in anticipation of its release, TIFF has just released the first photo of André as Hendrix.

Can an Outkast convincingly play an icon? Check out the picture above — then speculate away.

Larger-than-life: Nina Simone film writer-director, others, on beauty, challenge of musician biopics

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Even just watching YouTube videos of jazz-soul singer Nina Simone – playing her political hit Four Women in 1969, big heavy-metal hoop earrings dangling, or pounding out civil rights anthem Mississippi Goddam on the piano, in no makeup and a sparkling sleeveless gown, in 1988 – you feel the intensity of her eyes, the way her deep voice slinks up and down, always rooted.

How do you recreate or reinterpret that, the breath of a musician’s life, their art, as a biopic, on film?

“It’s a beautiful genre, if you do it right, and capture the essence of that person,” said Cynthia Mort, writer and director of an untitled biopic of Simone. The movie will star Avatar’s Zoe Saldana as the late, great singer and is set to start filming in mid October off the Los Angeles and Santa Barbara coasts to represent the south of France, where North Carolina native Simone settled in the early 1990s and passed away at age 70 in 2003.

Mort, who co-wrote 2007 revenge thriller The Brave One, starring Jodie Foster, was already a longtime Simone fan. She spent the day with the singer as an assistant on a photo shoot in the mid ‘90s at an apartment Simone kept in Hollywood, then wrote a screenplay about Simone years after. Mary J. Blige was going to star in the movie, but had to drop out due to scheduling, said Mort.

Saldana, with her natural beauty and a musical side, was a great fit.

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“I think it’s a big role for anybody. Nina Simone was large, in many ways. She’s iconic and brilliant and talented,” said Mort. “I find Zoe to be incredibly compelling. She has a lot of great qualities.”

The movie will focus on Simone’s later life, in the ‘90s, with flashbacks to her youth and the experience of moments such as the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

According to Mort, more than anything, the movie is a love story, a way to explore Simone’s life. Ray, starring Jamie Foxx in 2004 as Ray Charles, snagging him an Oscar, also explored his marriages and many love affairs, on top of his music. Love humanizes a character, even those as larger than life as musicians such as Simone, Charles, Janis Joplin or Jimi Hendrix.

British actor David Oyelowo has been touted as Simone’s love interest, cast as Simone’s manager-nurse Clifton Henderson. Simone’s own daughter, Lisa Celeste Stroud, who goes by the performance name Simone, has spoken out publicly, however, saying Henderson was gay and only in a business relationship with her mother.

Despite that, Mort calls Oyelowo’s character a “composite of people,” she said. “Without sounding ridiculous, the love story is between Nina and her journey, like most artists. The male nurse character is used to show some incredible moments in her life.”

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With a biopic of wild rocker Joplin moving forward, to star Tony winner Nina Arianda and directed by Martha Marcy May Marlene director Sean Durkin, and All is by My Side, a John Ridley-directed biopic of Hendrix starring rapper-singer Andre Benjamin (aka Andre 3000), having just wrapped filming, there’s been a wealth of musician-centric biopics on the rise.

Movies such as 1980’s Coal Miner’s Daughter, starring Sissy Spacek as country crooner Loretta Lynn, and Clint Eastwood’s 1988 opus Bird, starring a young Forest Whitaker as drugged up jazz saxophone phenom Charlie Parker, show the best of what biopics can be: Creative, soulful explorations of real people.

“When a musical film works, there’s no better form of entertainment,” said Chicago co-producer Neil Meron, who will co-produce next year’s Academy Awards. “Every department has a chance to strut their stuff. It’s like unadulterated joy. It goes deep into you.”

For Mort’s biopic of Simone, there’s the balance of music and image. While the film about Joplin reportedly landed the rights to Joplin’s best known tunes, the Hendrix biopic didn’t, leaving Benjamin to cover songs Hendrix covered, by Muddy Waters, the Beatles and other artists.

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“Getting the song rights is complicated,” said Mort. “With an artist like Nina, it’s scattered. We have secured the rights to a number of songs. We’ve also been in contact with Al Schackman, who was Nina’s guitarist. He’s incredibly supportive of the movie.”

There’s also the pressure of representing a musician not just to fans, but also to that artist’s family.

“Any creative decision is difficult. I’ve talked to her,” said Mort of being in touch with Simone’s daughter, who has spoken critically of the film. “It’s complicated. It’s her mother. I’m a mother and a daughter. I feel very strong about it in every way. I feel like we’re honoring her, Nina Simone.”

Then there’s the excitement and challenge of dressing Saldana in Simone’s signature bold style of jewelry and dresses, which Mort called “unreal.” French costume designer Magali Guidasci (Zombieland) has been brought in.

“The costumes are going to be insane and fantastic,” said Mort. “It’s a big part of the music, also because it’s original. What Nina wore is not what anyone else could wear.”

Costume designer Jim Lapidus, who designed glitzy, snazzy creations for Liberace and Elton John, worked on 24, and supervised on the 1989 Jerry Lee Lewis biopic Great Balls of Fire!, noted the need to visually inspire an actor or actress taking on a musical icon.

“When I worked on the Jerry Lee Lewis story, I found a top in a thrift store identical to one his wife actually wore, from the early ‘50s,” he said. “A lot of times people don’t get into the character until they get into the clothes.”

Mort adds that the biopic genre is still ripe for newness. She herself wrote a screenplay about Janis Joplin that didn’t pan out.

“The genre needs some reinvention,” she said. “There are worthy stories, because they are great beings. I’m not saying I’m the one to do it. … For example, I think a Janis Joplin movie should be told. I hope the new movie works. Is it about the rise of this girl who left high school? About a girl who loves rock and roll? A lot of these stories should be told.”

Read more:
OutKast’s Andre 3000 to play lead role in Jimi Hendrix biopic

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