Now that there's photographic evidence that Outkast's Andre 3000 is shooting a new biopic in Ireland about guitar master Jimi Hendrix, fans have a legitimate hope that hip-hop's coolest dude will do justice to rock's late genius. Unlike many proposed biopics of our music idols, the forthcoming film, All Is by My Side, may actually hit theaters and not just languish in production purgatory. The Root takes a look at some films that we've been hearing were on the way (and that we're dying to see on the big screen) but, for various reasons — from funding problems and casting issues to the denial of music rights and creative-control battles with film-studio attorneys — may be stuck in neutral.
The beef between Afeni Shakur-Davis and Morgan Creek, a production company that was developing a biopic of her late rapper son, boiled for several years before a recent resolution. Shakur-Davis and her Amaru Entertainment company, which wrestled with Hollywood types over creative control and music, settled in 2011. She got an undisclosed flat payment, as well as additional money and an executive-producer credit. Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) was set to direct. But after an open casting call proved fruitless, Fuqua dropped out. John Singleton stepped up and later dropped out, too. Who should play Pac? Anthony Mackie again (he unconvincingly played Shakur in Notorious)? We think that Romany Malco (The 40-Year-Old Virgin) is the better bet. He's grown as an actor since portraying that other Bay Area rapper in Too Legit: The MC Hammer Story.
When news surfaced last year that a biopic on Wu-Tang Clan's unhinged rap star would be called Dirty White Boy and focus on the relationship between ODB and his manager, Jarred Weisfeld, there was some initial concern. The title: Really? And who is first-time director Joaquín Baca-Asay? But that didn't put off Michael K. Williams. The actor, known for his tough-guy roles on HBO's The Wire and Boardwalk Empire, signed up to portray the Brooklyn, N.Y., rapper, who died of a drug overdose in 2004. Still, it wouldn't be a proper Wu-Tang project without a little dysfunction. Reports say that other Clan members are set to play themselves, except for Raekwon and GZA, who backed out in recent months.
When it comes to actors who could actually pull off a big-screen portrayal of Davis, Don Cheadle has at least two huge advantages: He plays the trumpet and has the blessing of the jazz giant's estate. Plus, Cheadle has proved time and again that he can bring an electric realism to just about any role. Since around 2008, he's been trying to get a film about his idol off the ground. Davis' son Erin Davis and nephew Vince Wilburn Jr. have gone on record to say that Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) has agreed to direct what's been called a "deconstructed" biopic. Director George Tillman (Notorious) was attached to another Davis movie project, but it looks as if the Cheadle-Fuqua version might have the best chance of actually hitting theaters.
Several mildly mismatched celebrities (Mike Epps? Eddie Murphy?) have been attached to a biopic about Pryor, who died in 2005 at age 65. But none was as surprising as Marlon Wayans, who became the front-runner to play the comedy great after the film's producers, Chris Rock and Adam Sandler, claimed in 2010 that Wayans had nailed the audition. The star of goofball comedies like White Chicks and the Scary Movie franchise faced down his doubters after a wave of Internet razzing. According to reports, though, the project is on hiatus, with funding said to be a stumbling block.
In 2009 Spike Lee put his money on frequent collaborator Wesley Snipes to star in a film about the Godfather of Soul that the director was planning to helm. (Lee and Paramount Pictures got the rights to do a Brown biopic after the singer's death in 2006.) The film had producer Brian Grazer attached to it then, too. That was before Snipes got sent away to serve a three-year jail sentence for tax evasion. Eddie Murphy had also angled to be cast in the role. More recently, Yamma Brown, Brown's daughter, said that the family has looked at Murphy, Chris Brown and Usher to portray her dad.
If the "Super Freak" singer's life were more comedy than tragedy, most would agree that Dave Chappelle should get the nod to portray the hard-partying James on film. The funnyman's hilarious impersonations of James on Comedy Central's Chappelle's Show are nothing short of comic genius. After the funk icon died in 2004, Sheldon Turner (The Longest Yard) was tapped to write a screenplay about James. More-recent reports have claimed that Terrence Howard is attached to a future biopic.
Based on looks alone, it would be a no-brainer for former Law & Order star Jesse L. Martin to be cast as the sexy, troubled soul man. But Martin, who has been attached to a project directed by newcomer Lauren Goodman, has admitted that a film based on Gaye's life looks to be "impossible." You can't fault Hollywood heavyweights for not trying, though. Several directors — F. Gary Gray, Cameron Crowe (with Terrence Howard as Gaye) and the United Kingdom's Julien Temple — have reportedly aimed to get a film green-lighted. However, Temple's Sexual Healing project has already drawn the ire of Janis Gaye, the singer's second wife, who disapproved of its potential focus on Gaye's "drug abuse, [and] on other negative aspects of his life." If she had final say, she'd want Denzel Washington to play her late husband.
Who's Keshia Chante? You may have seen her recently in the running for a host spot on BET's 106 & Park. But back in 2009, the Canadian singer-actress was said to be starring in a biopic about the beloved R&B ingenue, who died in a 2001 plane crash at age 22. Oscar-winning director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) was tapped to make it happen. But that was before the Twilight series made him an extremely busy man. Earlier this year, Chante attempted to clear up the biopic rumors by explaining that Aaliyah's family may not be ready to share their late loved one's story: "They're just not 100 percent comfortable, and unfortunately from my understanding, they don't have complete control of her estate. So a movie could technically be made without them green-lighting it, and I kind of think that's unfortunate."
During a tribute to Houston at this year's BET Awards, R&B singer Brandy showed that she's more than capable of singing and dancing like a 1980s-era Houston. The former child star — in addition to Jennifer Hudson, Rihanna, Vivica Fox, Jordin Sparks and even Meagan Good — has been linked to a biopic that Houston guru Clive Davis has said has long been in the planning stages. Brandy has said that her dream role is to play her mentor in a biopic but has also backed away from the idea.
It's a bit of a surprise that not even Oprah Winfrey has been able to get a proposed Horne biopic starring Alicia Keys into theaters or even on television. "We're going to start filming next year," the OWN honcho and talk-show icon has said. But that was 2007. Now, five years later, a film about the jazz singer and movie-musical star (Stormy Weather) seems no closer to becoming a reality. Recently, the beautiful Salli Richardson-Whitfield put in her bid to play Horne with an uncanny performance at the 2011 Jenesse Silver Rose Auction and Gala.
Before the former NWA frontman died in 1990 from AIDS, the 31-year-old rapper had had seven children from six women. Two of his offspring — son Eric "Lil' Eazy-E" Wright Jr. and daughter Erin Bria Wright — have said that they want to play their gangsta-rap dad in a biopic. For obvious reasons, Lil' Eazy-E is the more likely choice to star in the proposed Ice Cube-produced film Straight Outta Compton, which is set to be directed by F. Gary Gray. John Singleton was originally set to direct but is no longer involved.
Just two months after her death, it might be too early to be talking about a Donna Summer biopic. But brassy actress Tasha Smith (Why Did I Get Married) had long been planning to star in a movie about the disco diva. Details are fuzzy on that project. Moviegoers may have more luck getting a dose of Donna on the big screen in a proposed film about Casablanca Records bigwig Neil Bogart. Reports last year said that Justin Timberlake was in line to play the 1970s record producer and label head, who signed acts such as Irene Cara, Parliament and then-newcomer Summer.
It's a shame that this founding member of the Supremes didn't really get to reap the benefits of being in the biggest-selling female group in music history. But Motown chief Berry Gordy preferred Diana Ross over Ballard as the act's leader, and Flo was soon replaced by Cindy Birdsong. A near-broke Ballard died from heart failure in 1976 at age 32. Sounds like the makings of an incredible biopic, right? In a recent game of musical casting chairs, several names have been linked to the (possibly) forthcoming Blondie: The Florence Ballard Story. In 2010 Faith Evans was in line to play Ballard but reportedly walked away from the project. Then it was Jurnee Smollett and Solange Knowles (playing Ballard and Ross respectively). Recent reports have tipped Terry Dexter (as Ballard) and Teyana Taylor to portray the Supreme rivals. Could Flo be getting the shaft again?
If there's one rapper born to play Jimi Hendrix, it's Outkast's Andre 3000. The Atlanta MC has the rock god's similar out-there fashion sense, singular musical talent and undeniable cool factor that makes 3 Stacks' casting in the highly anticipated All Is by My Side an obvious choice. However, Experience Hendrix LLC, which runs the Hendrix estate, will not let the film's producers use any copyrighted Hendrix material. It issued a statement in May explaining its lack of participation in the film project. Undeterred, the film's execs have tapped Andre to record songs from the Beatles, Muddy Waters and other musicians Hendrix covered in the mid-1960s. The show must go on, as they say.
The haunting VH1 documentary on Lopes captured the TLC singer in all her trippy, angst-y glory. It would be hard for any actor to compete with that. Perhaps that's why a biopic of the late rapper-singer, who died in a 2002 car accident in Honduras, has not taken off. Last year, reports claimed that the network was set to release a film about the Atlanta trio. But since then, there's only been speculation about who would play Lopes. Could Christina Milian do her justice? Perhaps. The Latina pop singer knows relationship drama (baby daddy The-Dream allegedly cheated on her), and so did Lopes while dating football player Andre Rison.