We are sad Zendaya will no longer portray Aaliyah. Production is currently on hold.
— LifetimePR (@LifetimeTV_PR) June 29, 2014
The above tweet, as you can see, comes from Lifetime’s PR department, posted earlier this afternoon. There was no follow-up tweet, giving reasons for Zendaya’s departure, so we’re left to speculate.
It was just 2 weeks ago when the announcement of Zendaya’s casting was made, so this seems a bit sudden. The 17-year-old may have also been partly influenced by some of the criticism the project has received since her casting was announced 2 weeks ago; specifically, Aaliyah’s family has been vocal about their opposition to a small screen adaptation for Aaliyah’s story, wanting a feature film made for the big screen instead, with *name* actors.
"We want a major studio release along the lines of ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It,’ the Tina Turner movie… This needs A-list actors, A-list talent that can breathe life into what we think is a phenomenal story," said Jomo Hankerson, Aaliyah’s cousin and president of her label, Blackground Records.
The family is also outraged because they were not consulted for the film, and they promised to block Lifetime from acquiring any rights to Aaliyah’s songs.
Furthermore, news of Zendaya’s casting was met with some social media backlash, prompting the teen star to reply on Twitter, stating: "I’m just a 17 year old girl who got cast to play one of her biggest inspirations… She’s been an inspiration and influence in my whole career, her talent still shines brighter (than) ever, all I wanna do is honor her… she’s beautiful inside and there will never be another Aaliyah, I just hope to share her beautiful story, and make her proud up in heaven."
I can only assume that Aaliyah’s family’s vehement and vocal opposition to the project, as well as backlash from fans of Aaliyah, over her casting, were of influence on decisions made here.
And so now the project is on hold; which could mean, in the end, it never gets made.
Based on the bestseller "Aaliyah: More Than a Woman" by former Time Magazine music editor Christopher Farley, the Lifetime Original Movie was to be filmed this summer to be premiered in the Fall.
Howard Braunstein ("The Informant!") and Debra Martin Chase ("The Princess Diaries," "Sparkle") were serving as executive producers.
Bradley Walsh ("Turn the Beat Around") was to direct from a script written by Michael Elliot ("Brown Sugar").