In April of this year, John Singleton exited the long-in-development Tupac Shakur feature project, to be replaced by Carl Franklin; although, since that announcement, there hasn’t been much in terms of updates on any project developments.
It all started when Singleton gave an interview to XXL magazine in early April, in which he shared that his involvement in the Tupac film had been put “on hold,” as some key items apparently still hadn’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 was responsible for the hiatus; he didn’t explain what “things” they were 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.”
It wasn’t very long after that when we got official word that Singleton was out and Franklin was in.
News of the director switch quickly traveled, and some hours later, Singleton eventually spoke publicly about it, via his Instagram page, saying the following: “Real talk! The reason I am not making this picture is because the people involved aren’t really respectful of the legacy of Tupac Amaru Shakur. I won’t say much if you want you can read my articles in Hollywood Reporter on authenticity in Black Storytelling … To Pac’s real fans just know I am still planning a movie on Tupac … It doesn’t matter what they do mines will be better… Tupac was much more than a hip hop artist … He was a black man guided by his passions … Of most importance was his love of black people and culture … Something the people involved in this movie know nothing about… Real talk! How you gonna make a movie about a man when you suing his mother to get the rights to tell his story?! They have no true love 4 Pac so this movie will not be made with love! And that’s why my ass isn’t involved ! If Tupac knew what was going on he’d ride on all these fools and take it to the streets… But I won’t do that … I’ll just make my own project. What Yall think about that?!!”
The most damning item in what he said above that I certainly wasn’t aware of, is that the studio behind the film, Morgan Creek (I’m inferring) was suing Afeni Shakur for the rights to Tupac’s story. That’s something I think we all need to know more about. On the surface, it sounds incredulous, but maybe there are indeed some rights issues that Morgan Creek apparently believes it’s entitled to, enough that the studio would actually sue Tupac’s mother for them. If anyone reading this is more informed on this matter than I am, feel free to enlighten the rest of us, or you can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if necessary.
But it sounded like a legal battle was brewing – assuming one wasn’t already at its peak. And if what Singleton said was entirely accurate (and I don’t think there’s any reason for us to believe that it’s not, given the risk he was taking by speaking out against it publicly, and the claims he made), then he’s absolutely right to challenge the production of this film. It’s not one that I would want to see, given the conditions under which it is apparently being made. And if any filmmaker working within the Hollywood studio system today is best equipped to make a film about Tupac, it just might be Singleton, given that he had a personal relationship with the late beloved rapper/actor.
I expected Morgan Creek to respond to Singleton’s accusations soon after he made them, but nothing came that I’m aware of.
I did receive an email them from a tipster who shared Singleton’s Instagram post with me, as well as the name and photos of the actor that the director had already selected for the part. His name is Marcc Rose – a newcomer who would go on to appear in the N.W.A. bio, “Straight Outta Compton,” playing Tupac. So it seemed very likely that he would also play Tupac in the Tupac biopic to be directed by Carl Franklin.
The below screengrab of a casting notice on Backstage’s website (it’s a public page, so I’m not exposing something that you can’t access yourselves) suggests otherwise – that an actor is currently being sought to play Tupac; meaning Marcc Rose isn’t locked in for this, as I think we figured he likely would be.
But clearly Carl Franklin is still the director, so nothing’s changed there.
Betty Mae Casting is handling the casting.
Those interested in submitting are asked to submit a photo & resume to TupacCasting2015@gmail.com. “We are excited to consider everyone so please send us your photos!! Please do not show up without an appointment and no phone calls please,” the notice states.
Singleton did boast that he would make his own independently-produced Tupac movie, so it could be that Marcc Rose will be his guy, and another fresh face will star in Franklin’s Morgan Creek/Emmet-Furla Films production.
Here’s the casting notice from Backstage: