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Confirmed! Zoe Saldana Will Play Nina Simone In Biopic + Some Realities To Consider…

Confirmed! Zoe Saldana Will Play Nina Simone In Biopic + Some Realities To Consider...

Well folks… for those who wanted more *credible* sources to our story from earlier this week (read it HERE) that Zoe Saldana was attached to play Nina Simone in a film based on the songstress' life, here you go! 

The Hollywood Reporter is confirming our story that Zoe Saldana is indeed going to play Nina Simone in Cynthia Mort's film. It's a done deal people!

But let me add one quick note to address several comments I've read about the project – specifically, this isn't a Hollywood production. I've read several comments, and articles on other sites, calling it a Hollywood movie. But it's really not. By that I mean, it's not backed by any Hollywood studio. Instead, the company behind it is a UK-based studio called Ealing.

And its stated mission is to produce and distribute "commercial films to the global market ranging from star-driven US independent productions, to intelligent British and European movies and genre product targeted at core theatrical audiences."

Films on their slate have budgets that range usually in the $7 – 10 million range, which means we can assume this project will likely cost somewhere around there.

So there's a chance that you might not even get to see the film – at least not right away. It'll likely hit the Euro market first, and then head west.

But a KEY point in all this that you should consider is that, this isn't a film that's being made specifically for American audiences. I liken it to the Jennifer Hudson Winnie Mandela biopic – a film that's been complete for at least a year now, but still hasn't made its way to the USA yet, after debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall, even though it stars Hollywood actors (although, like this upcoming Nina Simone film, wasn't backed by a Hollywood studio). I'd expect this Nina Simone film to take a somewhat similar path.

But THR says that an October production start date is expected. Apparently Mary J. Blige moved on because financing for the project was hard to come by. This suggests that there's a chance that with Zoe Saldana attached, financiers found her a stronger international sell than Mary J. Blige, and so, here we are.

What I'm really curious about now, is who else may have been considered for the role, how Zoe became the chosen one – whether she approached them, or they approached her. I suppose all of this will eventually come to light… at least I hope so.

At this point, I have absolutely no idea what to expect from this, and will need to see and know more before commenting. 

But be sure to read Vanessa's review of the film's screenplay, which she posted last night HERE for an idea of what might be coming.

We called it! And it's officially a D.O.N.E. deal. So you may as well start adjusting to the idea… or just wait until you actually see something from it, and then judge it.

Yesterday, Nina Simone's daughter took to Facebook, entering the conversation with this statement: 

Greetings Nina Simone Lovers…Simone here. The rumor mill is once again at work regarding ZOE ZALDANA playing my mother in a biopic…have you heard this? If, so what do you think? I will await your responses before I share my heart.

That Facebook post has received 435 comments as of this posting, and I'd say the majority are anti-Zoe Saldana starring in the film. 

We're still waiting for Simone to share her heart as she stated.

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Comments

katherine

Hello-

Kerry Washington would of been a good person to play the bipic. Why do they think all black people look like zoe saldana.

Is she hard up for money. Because she could always say NO to the part.

After the family said they don't want her to play the part she should of moved on to another part.

Thank you

mike

this movie going straight to video- no one really cares about zoe , i dont like her –

NO BRAINER

Damn! She didn't fall back yet? Well, it's real simple black people. If you hate this idea, protest with your money when the time comes. It's as simple as that.

the Heartsleeves

Marianne Jean-Baptiste..
Viola Davis…

People just don't get or care who Nina was… Well I hope Zoe faces this project like it is the most important in her life, because it should be. This is one of the most important artists of the last century. Nina deserves a film or more than one.. and I'm sick that they chose a model.. but.. I will give her the benefit of the doubt.

DL

kerry washington is well known in europe due to her loreal ads and her notable role in last king of scotland and ray would have been an ideal choice- shes beautiful, marketable most importantly darkskined AND can act. Yes viola or adepero look more like nina but i can understand why they would want a pretty actress to promote the film and i belive kerry fits the bill- plus she coud easily pass for nina just put a head wrap on her ditch the makeup and she's good to go. With kerry as an option its baffling why they went for zoe.

Someone

I called it.. ICM got all those black actresses ( Nicole Beharie, Adepero Oduye, Emayatzy ) to make sure they could control the parts that Zoe will get first. Zoe is their main draw so she will get EVERYTHING first..sorry girls

Princess Sarah

You African American women complained too darn much. The producers will cast in the role as Nina Simone whom they deem fit. . If you do not like it don't go and see the movie.This is a business and they want to sell this movie. Zoe Saldana will sell tickets. Stop complaining, write your own stories and make your own movie. No one owes you anything. And a good actress can protray anyone.

Ava

As someone who studied piano for 10 years and who discovered Simone's virtuosity almost 20 years ago, I can only diplomatically say that I will reserve my right not to bother with this film. I've seen Saldana in other movies and it's not an attack on her personally but unless she is a a gifted pianist and has a haunting strong clear voice that we've yet to hear, I'll venture to say that this is a miscast. I won't bother with this one then.

abu

In the words of Dr. Leonard Jeffries, Whoever controls the images, controls your self-esteem, self-respect and self-development. Whoever controls the history, controls the vision."

abu

Whoever controls the images, controls your self-esteem, self-respect and self-development. Whoever controls the history, controls the vision."
Dr. Leonard Jeffries

abu

It's a affront to all who loved her, knew her, knew of her and were transformed because she was here!

Tammy

This is some bull! The Hollywood mentality is all over this and this article is making excuses. The closet to white skin you look the more commercially appealing you are otherwise why not ge t India Aire, Adeporo aduye is hot right now from the Pariah movie, or Marianne jean baptiste. She's a foreign actress. Hell, theres your international appeal!!. America knows her from Without a trace series. This is really disappointing!!!!!

Nadell

I have one question: If a director wanted to do a bio about Celia Cruz, would that director be inclined to ask Meagan Good to portray her???? And would there be an outrage or cry of 'foul' because of that decision?
This certainly does not have to be the last film about Nina Simone. Let this director make this film and someone else needs to come around and do another film – one that will involve the singer's family input.

Jacetoon

Psst….African American ladies (<—that was deliberate and accurate) the entertainment industrial complex is tryin' to unicorn you. Tell your own stories the rest is just static.

B

For all of those who want to suggest that the folks upset about this casting are just haters, answer one question for me (and answer it honestly): would a studio ever cast Gabrielle Union as Lena Horne? *Don't worry. I'll wait…*

Khi

If you are outraged about this, as I am, please sign this petition to get this role re-cast and SHARE IT WIDELY!

http://www.change.org/petitions/jimmy-iovine-cynthia-mort-replace-zoe-saldana-with-an-actress-who-actually-looks-like-nina-simone

queenseye

I love Zoe, but like Lauryn Hill was the no brainer choice to play Nina Simone. I mean really does anyone ever think a little longer about the fact Nina Simone was a SINGER. Oh well; like casting Halle Berry as Storm rather than Angela Bassett, another missed opportunity.

saadiyah

All kidding aside, I would have liked Nicole Beharie to have a shot at this role. I just found out the girl can sing! Check out "My Last Night Without You" on Youtube. I knew Nicole could act when I saw her in "American Violet."

saadiyah

I suggest Mariah Carey play Nina. She's Black, American, has been nominated for her acting, and can sing. Sounds like a winner to me!

LeonRaymond

@CHARLES JUDSON
Excellent Point!!

Anonymous

Stacia L. Brown of Clutch, the online magazine, suggests five very strong actresses who would be far more believeable, for a myriad of reasons, than Zoe in this role. Check out her piece. And I agree with many others that if Zoe sees herself first and foremost as a Latina actress then let her slug it out with the likes of Sophia Vegara, Jennifer Lopez, America Ferrera, Ana Ortiz and others for work. She shouldn't be able to have it both ways. Additionally, I surprised to hear that a UK filmmaker would care about international reach, in terms of the marketing aspect. Since when has the European market ever given a damn about others' perception of their film projects or anything else, for that matter?

LeonRaymond

@CAREYCAREY
My mother use to go see Nina Simone all the time, had photos of her from her days here when she did close door concerts due to the intense scrutiny and pressure from this government.60's Revolutionaries, sitting in the audiences would pull the curiosity of FBI, CIA and others, My older sister who dated Stokley Carmichael was the one who told me how much of a fire brand Nina was. I Love Zoe, love her big time, I just think for this role that would take so much of a seasoned actor to do it, being old enough to know, NINA was a very complex individual, very vast in her knowledge of the world, an old Soul during her younger years. A lady who could sit you down and discuss Cuisine and then be pitch perfect in a discussion about Marxist Communist ideology, that's a hard one for any actress, I would not wish that on any actor cause you will have to bring every trick, in the book to bring that to the screen, and the scrutiny from musical industry giants will be world wide, not saying she can not do it just saying this one will take going to a zone inside a soul that most folks out there have no present reference for. Tough one not just for her, it would not be a cake walk for any of the names mentioned on this post!!!!

Orville

Zoe Saldana goes on and on about how she's a Latina in her interviews yet she doesn't mind stealing a film role meant for a black American actress. First, Star Trek, now the Nina Simone biopic. I understand, the studio wants to make money but picking a mixed race Hispanic to play Nina Simone is the wrong way to go.

This is a huge mistake, Zoe Saldana is the wrong choice for the Nina Simone biopic for so many reasons. First, Saldana doesn't look like Nina Simone at all. Second, Saldana has NOT proven herself as an actress as far as I am concerned. Sure Saldana has appeared in Avatar and Star Trek her acting abilities are really lacking.

I still think the studio should have considered someone else like say Viola Davis to play Nina Simone when she's an older woman or maybe Anika Noni Rose when Nina Simone was younger. But to pick a mixed race Latina well, I think this just kind of proves how hard black women really got it in Hollywood.

I might be in the minority here but I don't consider Zoe Saldana to be a big star. Sure, Saldana was in avatar but the audience just heard her voice in that film. In Star Trek Saldana didn't do much except kiss Spock.

CareyCarey

Does Jeffrey Wright resemble Jean-Michel Basquiat? Nope! Yet he killed that role. Does Denzel resemble Rubin "Hurricane" Carter? NO WAY, but he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. Okay, I am again suggesting that an actor's performance in a biopic, is not hindered by whether they look like the subject or not. Consequently, I believe the most relevant question is, can Zoe Saldana capture the essence and spirit of Nina Simone (in all her good and bad glory) and then, project/convey that person to the audience? Lets face it, few (if any) who have voiced their displeasures of Zoe, have actually SEEN Nina Simone DO anything. Granted, we've READ about her stance on race, her political views and her personal problems, but who has SEEN her as she went through her storms? Who has witness the woman, Nina Simone, as she battled depression or alcohol addiction or the pain and confusion of being in and out of love (just to name a few (a small few) of the defining "characteristics" of who Nina "was")? Having said that, we have seen Ms. Saldana in several genres which required her to tap into several types of emotions. She has been in Rom-Coms, action flicks, dramas and (I have to say this) "black" flicks. And Troy said "Zoe got nitty gritty as a coke whore in Haven". I am suggesting that we have to give Zoe a chance b/c we really don't know what the role requires and/or if Zoe can go "there" when required. To that point, Blutopaz mentioned Diana Ross. Who knew Ms. Ross had the range to reach the emotions required in Lady Sings The Blues? Who knew she could play a med student who loses 18 years of her life due to a bout with schizophrenia (Out Of Darkness) which earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress? I am suggesting that until someone shows me — in Zoe's past performances — why she cannot reach the "depths" of Nina Simone, we have to call those things that are not, as if they already are — until proven differently. Zoe is an actress with potentials that's possibly untapped. Heck, I am more concerned with David Oyelowo than Zoe. What range does he have and when/what movies did he show it? Surely not "Planet Of The Apes" and please do not say that (his) over-the-top caricature in Red Tails?

Akimbo

The international financing aspect definitely explains the logic of Zoe's casting, even though it doesn't feel quite right. Maybe she'll surprise us? Maaaybe? Between Zoe and Joy, looks like I spawned four (and counting) posts. So…can I hold a gift card? What are the benefits of the Shadow & Act Snitch Reward Program?

Charles Judson

Mary doesn't chart overseas often and even then not that high. She appears to chart more often when she's featured on someone else's song, Maroon 5 being a recent example. Not much of a shock, the U.K. is where she pops up most. http://www.mariah-charts.com/chartdata/PMaryJBlige.htm As Turner pointed out COLOMBIANA made $60 million worldwide. Even if you take out AVATAR, PIRATES and STAR TREK and include DEATH AT A FUNERAL, TAKERS and THE LOSERS, those films did $50, $70 and $30 million each. Yes, LOSERS didn't do well, but if you're making a film for $10 million it's still much easier to sell an actress to backers who has been in films that are in the target range of what you would like to hit. AND have a foreign sales track record in both big budget blockbusters as well as low budget films like DEATH. COLOMBIANA did $12 million in France, Germany, Spain and the UK alone. Half of that in France, a country that will likely have a large Nina Simone fan base. Mary has no such record. Combine Zoe, who has already done some of the overseas press dance for TREK and AVATAR, with a name like Nina who still resonates in Europe and you've already made your job of selling a $10 million film that much easier. The marketing budget of this film will probably never crack more than a few hundred thousand (someone correct me if I'm wrong on that point), with festivals, preview screenings and press playing a huge part. We can debate issues like colorism and who looks like who all day long, but it doesn't in anyway get to the root problem of actresses having limited opportunities to get even a portion of what Zoe has done on their resumes. In terms of where this business has been and is, Zoe's current career path is still atypical, regardless of what shade she is. Unless I'm totally misreading the lack of Meg Ryan lite, early Sandra Bullock level roles for a Jennifer Beals post FLASHDANCE or Angela Basset's own career path, or Jasmine Guy's, or Nia Long's or any number of actresses of any shading that have neither played the lead or even co-lead in a film more than a handful of times, if at all.

troy

Zoe got nitty gritty as a coke whore in Haven

JMac

Disappointed. If it is such a small production and it probably won't play anywhere, the studio would have been free to use any great but lesser known actress to fill the spot(s). Seems odd they went for Mary J. now they have Zoe. It will be interesting to see who the role was offered to and why it was turned down. Something wrong with the script? Money? If Simone is against the choice, will she pull a Jimmy Hendrix estate move and not allow the use of Nina's songs in the film (providing she has all the rights)? Too bad this isn't a Merchant Ivory film. They'd do it right and it'd be a classic.

Margo

I am not sure why people are trashing Zoe for this. Yeah at first glance, Zoe doesn't look like Nina Simone, are there other actresses who better resemble Nina? sure (Viola David, Adepero Oduye, Anika Noni Rose…). I think people need not forget, Zoe is a good actress, as a big fan of hers, Ive been waiting for her to do a really nitty gritty dramatic role. I don't know much about Nina Simone but what I read is that she was quite the character, so this challenge of having to play someone quite opposite to her may have been a big motivator for her to pick up the role. If production goes up in October, I am sure by the end of the year, we will get something and we can see where this is really going.

NO BRAINER

All this complaining and I don't see one person here taking responsibility for the state of Hollywood that would allow this. You people just don't get it.

AccidentalVisitor

One of the folks on Simone's daughter Facebook page pointed out that they actually used some bi-racial actress to play Harriet Tubman in the Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter film? Hilarious.

Boomslang

Get the headwraps ready !

Nikkie

Wasn't trying to reply to anyone in particular.

the black police

All I can do is LOL!

Is this a joke?

I like Zoe.

However, this casting is BS.

It's almost as if the producers don't care or understand what Nina was about. She was a proud dark skinned black American woman who felt she had to leave her home country.

In an era of rampant skin bleaching on the Continent and in India, where black singers know it's best to lightened up (we'll see what happens to Ms. Banks) and get a big ass weave/wig in order to succeed, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that an actress than looks nothing like Nina was cast.

Zoe is gorgeous but Viola Davis is a much stronger actress. Also she's older which makes more sense for the time period the script is focusing on.

randy

zoe saldana as nina simone? sure, why not taye diggs as ODB while we're at it…

ALM

Based on this post, I am extremely interested in hearing what Simone has to say. Will she be direct and truthful like her mother, or will she give a politically correct, softballed response?

BluTopaz

Aside from this movie, it's interesting this studio refers to their European content as "intelligent" and the States as "star driven productions". I get that American actors are often recognized globally, but I see their choice of words as uniquely distinguishing betweeen their projects coming from the two continents. They also have Half of a Yellow Sun on their slate; so this is at least the 2nd time one of their Black films has produced controversy with the leading lady casting. I'm guessing that film is intended for an international release, maybe the same for Nina, who knows.

misha

Lordy! I don't know what's worse…the "powers that be" thinking Zoe is right for the part or Zoe herself believing that she can actually pull this off! I'm utterly flabbergasted!

Ladybug

I hope it never reaches US shores . . . if it does I think we should boycott . . . make a statement with the almighty dollar . . . which is all they seem to understand. I hope someone with good sense does a bio pic cast correctly. I am also trying to understand how they think Zoe is a draw . . . someone needs to check the box office results for Columbiana . . . I'm just saying.

Chad

Well good for her. Just be happy another black actress is playing the role of another iconic black figure. stop eating each other alive people.

Anthony

I understand why people are not in favor of Zoe playing this role but I've seen far too many disgusting comments. It is one thing to disagree about the casting decision but it is another to rip Zoe to shreds because she's interested in playing this role. From her perspective she may be a Nina Simone fan, she could know something we don't know and figures if she or another major commercial black actress doesn't sign on to do the film then it may never get made.

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