It is back to the drawing board for executives at the Lifetime Network as it didn’t take long for former Disney darling Zendaya to pull out of playing the role in the much anticipated biopic on the life of 90’s R&B singer Aaliyah. Zendaya told reporters on the red carpet of last weekends BET Awards that she felt “uneasy” about her participation in the film.
It was just two weeks ago when social media and urban blogs lit up with the news that Lifetime had announced plans for an unauthorized made-for-tv dramatization on the life of singer Aaliyah, the young singer who charted many hit songs in the early 1990’s. The Aaliyah story of a young woman who appeared to have the world at her fingertips and met her untimely death at the age of 22 in a plane crash off the coast of the Bahamas in 2001 had been buzzing around Hollywood as a movie project for years.
The loss of the movie’s star is just the latest snag for the production that had be facing some controversy since the project was first announced. According to reports, the family of the late Aaliyah Houghton was against the idea of a Lifetime television movie. The family, which also controls the rights to Aaliyah’s music was reportedly going to ban the use of any of the late singer’s music from being used in the project. It had been reported that Zendaya was to record up to four songs from the late singer’s catalogue to be included in the film. The family firmly believes that the story of a star of Aaliyah’s stature would be more suited for the big screen much like the Tina Turner’s feature film What’s Love Got to Do With It and not a tv movie of the week. A spokesperson for the family says Aaliyah’s story deserves to be in theaters and as a result, the family will not support Lifetime in their endeavor.
The Lifetime movie, which was taking its factual references from the pages of the best-selling Christopher Farley biography Aaliyah: More Than a Woman also found backlash from fans in regards to the casting choice of having Zendaya play the fallen star. News of an Aaliyah movie had been buzzing around Hollywood for over a decade and many names of young actresses had been said to be attached for consideration. When word was announced that Zendaya, the 17-year-old star of Disney Channel’s Shake It Up and a finalist on ABC’s Dancing With The Stars was going to play to role, vocal Aaliyah fans went as far as starting online petitions to speak out and protest the choice.
Lifetime executives were swiftly spinning the wheels on the project for a fall debut but now the network will have to hit the pause button and place the project on hold. As for Zendaya, the actress and singer said she felt that with things moving so fast and without the full blessing of Aaliyah’s family and fans, she could not in good conscience proceed with the film and therefore decided to gracefully bow out.
By Hal Banfield