In case you’re just joining us, you may not be aware of the fact that Mary J. Blige’s Nina Simone biopic appears to finally be in motion, with a scheduled principal photography start date set for May 30th, starring Blige in the title role, and Brit thespian David Oyelowo co-starring as Nina’s late lover, Clifton Henderson.
The film is budgeted at $10 million, and financing is in place.
Over the weekend, I was privy to the film’s casting sheet, which lists all the key roles in the movie, as well as full descriptions of them; it also gives an official synopsis for the film which reads: “Musical legend Nina Simone, an adored singer, composer and classically trained pianist, has been on the downward slide for years because of her secret, life long struggle with mental health issues. These issues manifest as incidents of drug and alcohol abuse and temperamental on-stage antics. Nina is broke but not broken when she meets Clifton Henderson, a trained nurse who becomes her manager, her best friend, and finally, her lover. In this sweet younger man, Nina finally finds the love and stability she needs to make a glorious — but tragically short-lived — comeback.”
So, there ya have it. It’s not a traditional biopic; it’s not going to cover her entire life, from birth to death, which is actually wiser. As I’ve said before, I think a study of a significant part of the person’s life, instead of trying to cram an entire life into 2 hours, just makes more sense.
As for the casting… I’m not at liberty to reveal all the details, but I can tell you that, while the film won’t cover Nina’s full life, there will be flashback sequences; I say that because one of the characters listed is for an 11/12 year old actress to play a young Nina, who will be seen in flashback scenes that take place in the 1940s, when Nina refuses to play at her high school concert unless her parents, who have been made to seat at the back of the concert hall (because they are black), are allowed to sit at the front.
I can also tell you that there’s a part for an actor to play Dick Gregory at 36 years old, though it doesn’t indicated how substantial.
Overall, it’s a relatively long cast list, made up of characters of varying backgrounds and ages, and given the time periods each is listed, there’ll be a few flashback sequences, with the film taking place in both the USA and France. The impression I’m getting is that this will be more of a quiet, meditative piece of cinema – an intimate portrait of only a portion of the woman’s life.
Regardless, the casting of David Oyelowo aside, I’m still not so quite sure what to make of this project; I fear it just might be another Winnie (the film starring the pairing of another musician-turned-actor, and seasoned actor in Jennifer Hudson and Terrence Howard – and we’ve seen the trailer for that… unfortunately).
But, we’ll just have to wait and see how it all shakes out; who knows? We may actually be proven wrong for doubting Mary J’s ability to play the part and carry the film. We’ll see..
With shooting scheduled to begin at the end of this month, and for 6 weeks according to the casting sheet, barring any unforeseen events, we should be getting our first look at this by the way of pictures and a trailer/clips by the early fall, if not sooner.
I’ll be watching…