Jimi Hendrix Biopic Sparks Backlash [Video]


The iconic musician is brought back to life on the big screen as Outkast’s Andre 3000 takes on the role of Jimi Hendrix. The full-length feature finds the eclectic singer channeling the late rocker during the beginning of Hendrix’s breakthrough career. The posthumous biopic Jimi: All Is By My Side is set to hit theaters this fall, but inquiring parties get a sneak peek at the Andre 3000’s portrayal of Hendrix in a recently released trailer. Although many are thrilled that Hendrix is finally being brought to the big screen for a new generation, some misinformation and debatable casting has sparked minor backlash from those close to the late musician and long-time fans.

Like Ray Charles, James Brown, Etta James and many more, the life of Jimi Hendrix would further be explored and brought to the eyes of fans, new and old with the new biopic. As news around the flick began to grow, inquiring minds became more anxious to hear more. It was later announced that Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley wrote and directed the film. Although it seemed like a promising endeavor, all were on board except for Hendrix’s estate. Ridley attempted to feature Hendrix’s music but his estate did not want to support the movie at all. This backlash forced Ridley to focus the main story of the biopic during 1966-67; the early years of Hendrix’s career of performing cover songs.

As time progressed, the question remained regarding who would play the iconic role. Although many speculated who would be able to revive Hendrix in respectable fashion, Andre Benjamin, also known as, Andre 3000 from southern rap duo Outkast rose to the occasion. The announcement came as a bit of a surprise because of Andre’s limited acting experience. Other than the prominent music video performances, Andre’s latest motion picture was 2006’s musical Idlewild. Similar to what Jennifer Lopez did for the Selena biopic, Benjamin would be able to portray Hendrix in a respectable fashion.

As the trailer and early screening for the Jimi: All is By My Side were released, critics noted that the issue was not Andre 3000’s portrayal of the late singer but the fallacies in the story of his early life. The withdrawal of Hendrix’s camp from the project and backlash became more apparent with the comments from those close to him. Jimi: All Is By My Side is set to focus on Hendrix’s life before the release of his debut album Are You Experienced and relationships with three of his many groupies, Linda Keith, Kathy Etchingham, and Devon Wilson. However, the backlash from the screening of the biopic arose from a scene of Jimi Hendrix beating one of his girlfriends repeatedly. Real-life groupie Kathy Etchingham is reported as claiming that most of the movie seemed fictitious and director Ridley never contacted her about portraying her in the biopic. Friends of Hendrix also claimed that the depiction of Etchingham’s relationship was never abusive and was misrepresented in the movie.

It is apparent that most of the backlash from the Jimi Hendrix biopic stems from not just fans, but real-life friends of Hendrix. The over dramatization, false representations in Hendrix’s relationship and lack of accurate information make the flick another victim of Hollywood altering for mass appeal. Usually when a movie is made about a person’s life, Hollywood tends to over dramatize certain incidents or put a spin on the fine details that make up the said person’s legacy. In Lee Daniel’s The Butler, the main Cecil Gaines’ son was added in for a different spin and outlook on the time of civil rights. Similar to the Hendrix movie Jimi: All is By My Side, small alterations in his personal life may have adverse reactions from fans, old and new and lessen the artist’s legacy.

By Tyler Cole

The Washington Post