Claude Brodesser-Akner - New York Magazine's Vulture
10/12/11 at 10:00 AM
Almost twenty years after directing Tupac Shakur in Poetic Justice, John Singleton is in negotiations to direct a biopic about the slain rapper for Morgan Creek and Universal Pictures. The project had been set up with Training Day director Antoine Fuqua, but we’re told he had difficulty casting the role of Shakur; even a nationwide talent search failed to yield candidates of which Fuqua approved. As such, Fuqua has moved on and is looking at other projects, most notably attaching himself to direct Relativity Media’s Hunter Killer, a thriller about an American submariner and a Navy SEAL team who must work together to rescue the Russian president during a military coup d'état. (Vulture also hears exclusively that Relativity is in talks with Sam Worthington to star in that production.)
Singleton, meanwhile, had also been rumored to be in the running to direct the rapidly coalescing N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton at New Line Cinema, but insiders tell us that he’s instead taking the Tupac gig after the studio said it wanted to see how rival Compton candidate Craig Brewer fares with his update of Footloose, which opens this weekend. (Our prediction: Not well. The latest NRG tracking numbers shared with Vulture show that 80 percent of moviegoers surveyed said that they were aware of Footloose, but only a little more than one in four — just 28 percent — expressed "definite interest" in seeing it. Only 6 percent of moviegoers said it would be their "first choice" at the box office.) Plus, there’s the old “bird in the hand” theory; after Singleton’s Abduction flopped, we can’t imagine too many other studio offers were forthcoming.
The Tupac script comes from Oscar-nominated screenwriters Stephen J. Rivele and Chris Wilkinson (Ali, Nixon), though we’re told the most recent draft is by Brian Tucker; his neo-noir script Broken City starts shooting next month with Allen Hughes directing, and Russell Crowe, Mark Wahlberg, and Catherine Zeta-Jones starring. That project was acquired for distribution by the Fox-based New Regency only last week.
Shakur and Singleton became quite friendly during the filming of 1993’s Justice, which is readily apparent in their easy camaraderie in this brief BET Rap City clip dating from June 1994 (in which — spoiler alert! — Tupac leaves Singleton in the dust in a sidewalk sprint-off). As such, it will be intriguing to see whom Singleton plans to cast in the title role of his former friend and colleague.
Details revealed of Tupac Shakur biopic
Jeff Weiss-Pop & Hiss, The L.A. Times music blog
August 27, 2010 - 1:06 pm
Unlike the title of his George Clinton collaboration, you apparently will be able to see Tupac Shakur on the silver screen, with New York Magazine's Vulture blog reporting that screenwriters have been drafted to pen a long-gestating biopic on the legendary rapper.
Indeed, the Oscar-nominated team of Stephen J. Rivele and Chris Wilkinson ("Ali," "Nixon") will team up with Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day"), with production reportedly to begin as soon as mid-November. According to to Wilkinson's interview with Vulture, the script will not be in "any way biopic-y," a stark contrast to a previous draft that took a more verite approach. Wilkinson's interview also reveals that the script will pivot on the final day of 2Pac's life in Las Vegas, with a series of flashbacks depicting his previous four years. As for casting, no one has yet been chosen to play the mercurial MC, with reports claiming that the producers and director are searching for an unknown.
Rivele informed Vulture that "he knew nothing about [Shakur]" before diving into research, but upon immersing himself in just about everything ever written about the rapper, "it became clear that he was essentially a 19th century Romantic poet who found himself in the 21st century ... an artist whose character is at odds with his medium ... a really sensitive, very romantic, talented young poet who also could sing, dance, and act. But the realities [of the hip-hop record business] were that he had to create this persona of the gangster."
Of course, it's pure subjectivity as to whether you accept that interpretation. Anyone well-versed in the intricacies of mid-'90s hip-hop is aware that Shakur was a protean individual who shifted between several well-defined personas. Suffice to say, one of his first rap names was MC New York, but he died repping the West Coast. And though Shakur's career dovetailed with the peak of gangsta rap, to define him as being beholden to hip-hop convention seems to underestimate the power of his personality and willful defiance.
Had he the desire, Shakur could've inevitably bucked the prevailing trends to indulge his most starry-eyed visions. By the time he was murdered, his acting career was on stable enough footing that he could have turned his back on the recording industry to write poems a la Jim Morrison in Paris. But there was a dark and glamorous appeal to the thug life and any biopic of Shakur would be well served to focus on his internal contradictions rather than external conflicts.
The interview with Rivele goes onto indicate that he believed that Shakur was in the process of breaking free from his past associations and images, an act which may have led to his downfall. Of course, it's all mere speculation. Although if you're really into over-reaching, perhaps "Tintern Abbey" and "To Live and Die in LA" aren't all that far apart.
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