Antoine Fuqua seemed close to getting his project off the ground about 3 years ago; but then he walked away from it. And then there was talk of John Singleton taking over. Eventually, he did. At least, he’s still attached to direct it.
As of our last report on the project, Singleton had closed a deal to re-write, direct and produce the film, which was to center on the last day of Tupac’s life, with flashback sequences included that will show the previous years leading up to his death.
And in an interview the film’s producer, Randall Emmett, gave to Collider, he stated that the long-delayed Tupac Shakur biopic will indeed begin shooting in June of this year (2015), adding, “The script is great and we’re ready to make the movie […] We’re just prepping the logistics.”
Emmett also confirmed that rights to Tupac’s music catalog had been secured, thanks to his mother’s involvement. Afeni Shakur is executive producing the film.
As for what audiences can expect from the film will tell, Emmett didn’t give much away, except to say: “We want to be real and raw about the things and the gangster life that he was involved in, growing up in the way that he grew up […] But we also want to honor the talent that he had because he really was, in my opinion for sure, one of the greatest talents that ever lived in music and hip-hop.”
He also shared that the film will touch on the East Coast–West Coast hip-hop rivalry of the mid-to-late 1990s, but it won’t be a primary focus: “We had to address it because it was a big thing in the music community at that time, and the way that it’s told in our story is we almost set the origin of it […] How did it start? Why did it get to the place it got to? I was in high school and college at the time, so I’ve been so intrigued learning about it from the…consultants on the movie [who have shared] what was going on, and what was really being thought. And I hope we can show some of that in this movie.”
Skip ahead to this week, to an interview Singleton gave to XXL magazine, published yesterday, in which the director shared that he has put the project “on hold,” as some other items apparently still haven’t been completely worked out: “I’m putting my involvement on hold right now because we’re trying to figure out some things… I got a script and I got the blessings from his family. We’ll see…. We’ve got to get it right.”
He didn’t say what exactly is causing the hiatus; he didn’t explain what “things” they’re still trying to figure out, other than to say: “It’s a very intimidating because, like I said, you just want to get it right. I think the picture is not going to be good unless it’s offensive to some people. So, whenever you make a movie, you always have different elements that people have their say about. But when I’m making my movies, John Singleton movies, it’s really just my voice. So I can’t be listening to all the other suggestions of all these other people and shit. So we’re not going to pull the trigger on that until it’s right. If somebody else wants to do something different then they can do something different. But if it’s going to be right, it’s going to be right. It’s going to be something that potentially adorns ‘Pac’s legacy.”
So we could maybe infer that the hold-up is because there are too many cooks in this particular kitchen, and he’d like to kick them all out so that he can essentially make the film he wants to make, minus the interference of others.
And in terms of casting, Singleton said that he’s narrowed down his choices, but just can’t talk about them yet: “Yeah, I have. I have great casting choices, it’s just too premature to talk about.”
He doesn’t say how long the project will be “on hold” – at least, his involvement in it. But I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an announcement down the road that he’s left the director’s seat, beginning a search for a replacement… yet again.
Although he certainly does have other films he wants to make, like the “Baby Boy” reunion that will star Taraji P. Henson and Tyrese. It’s one that he’s actually talked about in the past, but it’s still a very secretive project: “I have a script of a movie that I want to do. It’s kind of an allude to ‘Baby Boy’ but we have to figure it out. Taraji has an interesting schedule with ‘Empire’ and Tyrese has a lot of stuff going on, and I do. But we’re going to put it together. The audience just really wants to see those two back together.”
It was way back in 2011 when Singleton first shared that he was planning to reunite Henson and Gibson in a new film, although he emphasized that it’s NOT a sequel to “Baby Boy.” At a black cinema townhall discussion I participated in that year, at the Museum of the Moving Image here in NYC, put together by Warrington Hudlin, Singleton was one of the guest interviews, and he revealed a little bit more about the project, describing it as “a crazy, dysfunctional love story set in the hood.” Not-so unlike “Baby Boy,” right?
He also said that it’s an original script he’s written. That’s all we’ve known about the project thus far.
I should note that there is another Tupac Shakur film in development – also a feature – titled “The Rise and Fall of Makavelli The Don,” written by Shakur’s cousin, William Lesane, which he planned to produce. Announced in 2013, Lesane said that he was sitting on “a commitment of $15 million” from a Giovanni De Francisci of the Petschek Trust, and Monegasque Movie Productions, to finance the project, with principal photography set for New Mexico. But no specific start date was given, and no word on where the project currently stands, 2 years later.