A few years ago, Morgan Creek Productions in association with producers LT Hutton and Tupac Shakur’s mother, Afeni Shakur, announced the start of the Tupac Biopic production that set the entertainment world ablaze. The beloved yet controversial slain rapper known as arguably the most prolific artist to emerge from the Hip-Hop culture with more than 75 million albums sold worldwide. His torn position between the “thug life” of the young black male and history as a first generation offspring of the Black Panther Movement made for a more than paradoxical outlook with which he constantly expressed to the world through his music and public figure. Since the moment he emerged on the entertainment scene it has been all eyes on Tupac.
The picture was set to start filming in 2011 with well-known Training Day director, Antoine Fuqua attached, until Afeni Shakur and Morgan Creek Productions engaged in an extensive legal conflict over rights to her son’s story and works, shortly after Ms. Shakur counter sued stating that she had no agreement with the heavyweight production company. After some time, the dispute was settled out of court and Afeni Shakur is now an executive producer on the project.
The production went back and forth on who should helm the role of the infamous rap icon, whether it be a recognized actor or an unknown. In time, in association with the one-time onboard director, Fuqua, it was decided that an unknown would be better in a similar fashion as Jamal Woolard of the Notorious film following the life of another martyr of the culture, The Notorious BIG. The production proceeded with a worldwide online casting call submission with SkeeTV and Karmaloop, but almost three years after the submission deadline there has still been no word on who will play the dynamic character concomitant of Shakur’s life and legacy.
In recent news, the productions has garnered a $45 million budget with newly allied producers Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films with plans to begin filming this Spring. With the new budget in place, the production has gained a new life like no another as most wait on the edges of their seats to see how the film will do in this new era of Hollywood where urban films are gaining a distinct recognition, mostly due to the recent box office successes of picture like Lee Daniel’s The Butler, and newcomer Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station.
Tony Award nominee, theatrical director Kenny Leon, will be taking a Tupac inspired musical to Broadway. Vanity Fair is reports that the musical may ‘”save Broadway” by bringing a younger and more diverse crowd to the industry. The musical entitled, Holler if Ya Hear Me, is inspired by Shakur’s lyrics and is riding the wave of an $8 million budget, which is expected to start its Broadway run on June 19th with the Palace Theater in New York.
The production has caught the attention of a wealth of talent, from waves of unknowns to rappers and established actors. The recently renown talent, Michael B. Jordan, was interviewed during The Hollywood Reporter’s actors roundtable when he stated that he auditioned for the role as well. Anthony Mackie played Tupac and the notorious film and was also recently quoted expressing his interest in the role. Amidst all the talk and coverage of the film and theatrical run is the high expectations of gross for both industries, one thing for certain is that all eyes are definitely on Tupac in 2014.
By Michael Augustine