Unfortunate news… I know many of you folks were excited when we first reported this.
Fox Searchlight is shelving its planned Kasi Lemmons' musical Black Nativity, just weeks before it was scheduled to begin production in early October.
Why? The project, which initially had Samuel L. Jackson's interest, cannot find an actor to play its male lead. THR says that Jackson, as well as Laurence Fishburne, and several other *name* black actors in that age group, all passed on the project.
Strange, isn't it? The report doesn't say exactly why all of these actors are passing on the role (although it notes that Samuel's asking price may have been too much for the film's reported $10 million budget). It does state that the role needs an actor who can sing, and be believable as the father of Jennifer Hudson (who's already attached to star in the project).
With that list of criteria – old enough, can sing, and be a recognizable *name* actor willing to work within a $10 million budget – the pool of available actors is a very small one.
This of course speaks to the practically non-cultivation of black actor/stars in Hollywood. But that's a topic we've beaten to death here on S&A.
Angela Bassett is also attached to star in the film as J-Hud's mother (would've been Samuel's wife, had he stayed on the project), which is based on Langston Hughes' Broadway gospel musical.
The project has actually been in the works since 2009, when we first announced it. The story centers on a young black teen from Baltimore, who is sent to Harlem by his mother to spend the Christmas holiday with his estranged grandparents. The boy then learns the real meaning of faith and family when his grandfather delivers a Christmas Eve sermon and "a stylized, dream-sequence retelling of the classic Nativity story."
So the project is shelved indefinitely – unless they can somehow attract the likes of Denzel Washington, or an Eddie Murphy, who are both old enough to play J-Hud's father, are both *name* black actors, although I can't vouch for their singing abilities. And they both would be willing to take pay-cuts.
What other actors can you think of who fit the criteria that the role requests?