Director Of Nina Simone Biopic Explains Casting
After Bob Johnson already defended the controversial Nina Simone biopic, the director of the film is chiming in.
As previously reported people are outraged that Zoe Saldana was cast as the songstress and outfitted with dark makeup when there are dark-skinned Hollyweird actresses that could’ve played her.
Now according to director Cynthia Mort Zoe’s “courageous performance” played a factor in her casting. Moreover it was about MONEY and the film wouldn’t be funded without a big star in the featured role.
The Huffington Post reports:
In an interview with BuzzFeed featured in a longer piece on the film’s history, Mort underscored her previous comments on Zoe’s “amazingly courageous” performance in the film, noting that Saldana’s talent as an actress played a part in landing the role.
“Certainly I would not have cast Zoe if I felt she was wrong for the role in a million years,” Mort told Buzzfeed. “Zoe’s amazing. She’s amazing in the movie. She gave her all. She’s honest, she’s courageous, she’s fierce.”
While the film’s producer, Barnaby Thompson, told Buzzfeed that casting a bankable star to raise funding for the film was not a factor in Saldana’s hiring, Mort went on to disagree.
“For me, Zoe was a creative decision,” she said. “However, long before I met Zoe, there were other people considered who were not acceptable to financiers. And for Barnaby to say anything other than that is incorrect.”
She also noted that another big name star was considered for the role; Mary J Blige.
Before “Nina” producers announced in 2012 that Saldana would play the title role, Mary J. Blige had been connected to the project. Despite her initial interest in having Blige helm the coveted role, Mort told Buzzfeed: “Mary is an incredible woman. She really is. She’s very moving, very talented. I spent a lot of time with her. But she was very, very busy.”
Well at least she’s honest about the real reason why Zoe got the role….
Hit the flip to see what she has to say about Zoe slapping on blackface…
“It’s a narrative film. You help your actor inhabit a character any way that you can,” she said. “Just as Nicole Kidman put on Virginia Woolf’s nose, or Leo did his J. Edgar Hoover makeup. I understand the issue of race. And color is a sensitive issue. But at the same time, it is a movie. And it is an actor. And everyone is doing their best to find the truth in that.”
Zoe Saldana herself is now joining in on the commentary and recently came to tears while talking about her casting.
Hit the flip to see what she said….
According to Zoe she was ecstatic to hear that Mary J. Blige would be playing Nina Simone but when the singer turned down the role and it was offered to her, she had some trepidation for “obvious reasons.”
Zoe Saldana: The first time I heard about the Nina Simone project, I was at a fashion show in Paris and Mary J. Blige was there as a performer, and as soon as she got onstage, she announced that she was going to be playing Nina in this biopic.
And I remembered I cried because I was so happy, and I thought, “This is just going to be the best thing ever. I know that I’m going to go see it.” And a year later, I was approached by a filmmaker—you know Cynthia Mort—and she said she wanted to meet me for the Nina movie, and I was really surprised because I thought, well, Mary J.’s doing that, and she was like, “Yes, she was as of recently, but she will not be a part of it, and this was a mutual decision.”
Once that came about and I received confirmation, I turned the project down because for various reasons I thought I was not the right age to be a part of this project because of the time frame … which the director wanted to document or talk about in her story of Nina. And obviously—well, the other obvious reasons—but then something else came about once I kept brewing with this, and I thought, “Well, this project has been at every studio, pitched at every studio. It has been offered to a number of excellent, amazing actresses that, for whatever valid reasons of their own, decided to pass on the project.
Do I sit on the side and wait and sort of, for my personal fears, do I just sit on the side and just pass this project from my hands to the next hands and just wash my hands of it and be done with it? Or do I make the decision to be a part of the telling of the story of an iconic figure in American history that happens to be a woman, that happens to be black?” So I guess the good outweighed the fear and the bad.
“Obvious reasons”, huh???
Zoe also dished on what she hopes people learn from the biopic, hit the flip…
What she learned from playing Simone and wants audiences to take away from the film.
ZS: What did I learn? OK, I learned that, as an artist, you have to make your own decisions and they have to come from your gut and from your heart, and not from any personal gains that you may think you’re going to get. I think that as a community of color that has bred amazing artists that not only have given us beautiful art that they create, they’ve given us our history, and these are stories worth telling. Don’t let this be the only story of Nina; let this just be the first. That’s what I think. If this started up a conversation about her, I’m happy we’re talking about her, [tears up] because this is just the first.
Oh Zoe….why did you do this?!
Will you be watching the Nina Simone biopic???