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Is André Benjamin The Man To Play Jimi Hendrix? Why/Why Not?

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by Tambay A. Obenson
May 8, 2012 12:25 PM
24 Comments
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Let me first make it clear that I'm not being disparaging, or *hating* on the man and/or his abilities... consider this more of an inquiry.

Based on your comments here, as well as on Facebook and Twitter, and also the number of *likes* the post announcing the news has received in the last 24 hours since I posted it yesterday, it's safe to say that most of you are excited about André Benjamin starring as Jimi Hendrix in a film based on the late legend's life. 

I, on the otherhand, don't necessarly share your enthusiasm for the project - particularly the actor chosen to play the title role; and I'm hoping that you all who are apparently sold on André Benjamin as Jimi Hendrix can convince me that he IS indeed the man for the part.

In short, as I see it, looking over his IMDB resume, I've seen 3 of his performances - in Idlewild, Four Brothers, and Be Cool - and there's really nothing about any of them that's enough to make me feel less ambivalent about his ability to successfully embody Jimi Hendrix on film. 

So I ask you, what am I missing here? What am I just not seeing that many of you apparently are?

And to answer a question that I'm sure you will ask me - who I think should play the part - as I've said many times in the past regarding films based on real-life figures (dead of alive), my first choice in actors to play those roles would go to unknown actors/actresses. They tend to come with less baggage, because I think it's much easier for the audience to see past the actor playing the part (especially if they're good at what they do), and instead see the character they're portraying. With faces we're already familiar with, that familiarity can be distracting - unless the actor is able to completely disappear into the performance, so much that we forget that they are performing, and we only see the character they're playing; something that I think is rare when it comes to biopics. It takes a really strong actor to pull off that kind of a performance.

So this project actually worries me more than it excites me to be frank. It's not like biopics on black public figures are being financed and produced regularly; and here we have a wonderful opportunity to realize the life (a few years of it anyway) of Jimi Hendrix's short time on this planet, on film, and all I want is to ensure that it's an opportunity that's fully taken advantage of, and that the audience gets the best possible film. 

It's not an opportunity that will come around again any time soon, if ever. So the pressure is certainly on, and I'm sure Mr Benjamin realizes that - at least I hope so. I know he's been wanting to make this film for a long time now, and that alone (his passion for it) is certainly encouraging. I'm just not too sure he's the man for the job.

He could certainly completely surprise me with his performance. And if that happens, I'll bow to the alter that is Andre Benjamin as Jimi Hendrix. But until then, all I have to go on is his past work, and I just can't say that any of it makes me less ambivalent about this particular project.

So, once again, I'd like to know what you all are seeing that I'm just not; what am I missing here? Is it just his look, or is there more (don't forget that he actually has to ACT in this; it's not just going to be a series of scenes with Benjamin plucking at guitar strings with a headband around his head). The film will follow Hendrix’s years in England, from 1966 to 1967, as he put together his debut album, Are You Experienced

Why should I be excited about this project, other than the fact that it's being made finally?

School me.


Jimi Hendrix - Vancouver Interview (Part 1 of 2) by super8monsters

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24 Comments

  • imissjimi | January 1, 2013 9:27 PMReply

    like wood harris and jamie foxx, andre is TOO DARK to play JIMI he was lightSKINNED!!!
    WOOD HARRIS DID LOOK LIKE HIM THOUGH AND SOUNDED EXACTLY LIKE HIM. BUT HE WAS 3 SHADES DARKER THAN THE LEGEND.

  • marcia jones | May 11, 2012 9:19 PMReply

    I would have never expected Jamie Fox to play Ray Charles as well as he did.. I think Andre will do well.. not based on his "acting" career but as his journey as a musician/artist I wish him the best!! I'm sure he knows the responsibility of this role.. Mary J playing Nina Simone... now that's where you gotta worry..

  • Nadine | May 11, 2012 10:18 PM

    Comedians (real ones) have an ability to tap into their heightened ability to read and interpret what makes people feel a certain way is a rare skill, which is why comedians (real ones) who've join the thespian ranks are notoriously able to make us cry as much as they have made us laugh. Andre is no Jamie (though he pisses me off often), but you never know.

  • SEAN T. | May 11, 2012 12:52 AMReply

    Andre is more than just an artist...he is a perfectionist and I know he will do Jimmy justice in this film..I wouldn't put all of the pressure on him to make this film great..I would throw some of it on the writers, producers, and the director as well...but all in all..Andre 3000 over the years has proved himself time and time again to be one of the most innovative musicians on this planet and I know he's just getting into the acting scene..but like I said before..I know he will do Jimmy justice....SEAN T.

  • Gai | May 10, 2012 3:18 PMReply

    I'm excited about Andre 3000 in this role because I think he can relate to Jimi's life story. They are both kind of "outcast" musicians that have dealt with demons in their life. Sometime the inspiration for acting comes from real life. I think he will be great in this role...

  • MAURICE EMEL | May 9, 2012 5:01 PMReply

    I nominate Michael B Jordan for the role of Hendrix... Michael B. Jordan, who? Wallace from S1 of THE WIRE, the black kid in FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, the cool kid in CHRONICLE. He's got the acting chops, the looks and the youth. nobody better in my opinion, at the moment.

  • Muse | May 11, 2012 10:32 AM

    Yeah, MBJ came to mind too. He could definitely bring a depth and vulnerability that I just don't see happening with Andre 3000.

  • Ash | May 9, 2012 11:37 AMReply

    The reason I've expressed excitement about this is not just because they favor each other a lot. It's because has Andre has expressed several times in the past about his fondness for Jimi and seems to have an actual connection with him and will care about portraying him in a respectful way. He's not like other "raptors" who act just because the opportunity presents itself. I feel like Andre cares about film as an art form. Thus, he is likely to put in the work required for the role. I could be wrong, but I'm optimistic about this, Tambay.

  • Alicia Fiasco | May 8, 2012 11:10 PMReply

    I could not agree with you more. And I ecstatically love Andre "3 Stacks" Benjamin. But I love well executed biopics just a little bit more. And his acting has always been sub-par in my opinion. Unless he can evoke some of the stage presence he exudes in real life and translate that to the stage, I'm afraid he'll fall flat like he has in the past, or Beyonce in ever role she's ever tried to play. Okay, the Beyonce jab was unnecessary, but to the point. We're talking about the legendary Jimi Hendrix and it's not enough to cast a man in the role just because he's fine and knows how to hold a guitar properly. I think it's obvious that Andre may not be able to pull of what Jamie did for "Ray," and it's far too much at stake to just let him try. It would be wonderful if Andre could top that, but that's a huge maybe. And I'm not willing to risk that bet. I also say an unknown should bring Hendrix to life!

  • CareyCarey | May 8, 2012 3:04 PMReply

    I am not in the crowd who believes an actor has to look like the subject, but -- A BIG BUT -- Jeffrey Wright might have been able to play Hendrix during Jeffrey's Basquiat days, but his current "pleasingly plumper" body and bald head will not fly. Well... maybe he could lose weight but please please please no Jules Winnfield (Samueal Jackson) wigs. The man is just too old. But Andre Benjamin is perfect -- and let me tell you why. First, one year Mr Andre 3000 was voted the sexiest male vegetarian. Yep, don't ask "ME" why but he was :-). Now, it's been said that Jimi Hendrix was quite a ladies man -- so -- match made in heaven. Second, Andre can act. C'mon now, although many folks didn't enjoy Idlewild ( maybe it had something to do with our favorite sistah to hate, Paula Patton) but I enjoyed the movie and Andre's acting. That reminds me, "Four Brothers" wasn't a movie to shout about but again, Andre might have arguably been the best actor in that film? However, as with the biopic of Marvin Gaye, I am more concerned with the script than who plays the lead role. Lets face it head on, Jimi Hendricks died from a drug overdose and his entire life -- like Marvin Gaye's -- was immense in drug use. Did that lifestyle begin with his stay with the Isley Brothers? or possibly Little Richard? I'm just asking because by 1969's Woodstock he was full blown gone. I know, I know, some folks do not care to see another "drug" story, especially involving one of our iconic music figures. But listen, the story, or stories, do not have to be about the "drug", it has to center on how the drug affected the person - the good, the bad and the end. "Carey, you have to be kidding, what's good about drugs"? Well, that depends on who you ask and when you ask them and what drugs you're talking about. Now, let me warn you, don't try this at home. First, drugs derived from the opium poppy plant (i.e vicodin, Morphine, Codiene, hydrododone (Vicodin) and oxycodone (Oxycontin) Heroin etc,) work on the central nervous system. In other words, they put the body in a peaceful state of mind and body. This allows the musician added advantages that I won't go into. But, it's important to note that in the area of sex activity, a man on opiates can maintain an erection for hours and never come. So, in the eyes of many, that's a good thang *wink*. Cocaine on the other hand, when consumed, can produce an instant orgasim, without being touch by another person. Again, in the eyes of many, the horniness that drug produces can be a good thang. In short.... sex & drugs & rock-n-roll & fame & family & the evolution the man & the demons of the man & withdrawl & death -- has to be told. Who's going to write that script?

  • WOW | May 8, 2012 6:38 PM

    Cocaine effects the body how?! And my guy can last how long?! Wow, I gotta get some of that.

  • shan | May 8, 2012 2:38 PMReply

    he can't do any worse than wood harris . actually martin luther who did a loosely based performance of him in across the universe is a good choice also.

  • shan | May 8, 2012 2:37 PMReply

    you forgot the movie he did about the uprising in seattle and semi pro
    he will do ok

  • Akimbo | May 8, 2012 1:05 PMReply

    If it were a silent movie or photo shoot, Andre would be the perfect choice. He's got the right look and vibe, but the acting...sounds and feels like acting.

  • Akimbo | May 8, 2012 3:32 PM

    You don't say.

  • David | May 8, 2012 1:49 PM

    Probably because he's not an actor.

  • Muse | May 8, 2012 12:32 PMReply

    As I stated in the comments section of the other article, while I love Andre 3000 as a rapper, I'm not seeing him as Hendrix. At all. Jeffrey Wright would be my number one choice. Wood Harris (who played Avon Barksdale on the Wire) could also carry that role. Lenny Kravitz, maybe. But Andre? Not seeing it.

  • Orville | May 8, 2012 4:06 PM

    Jeffrey Wright is the wrong choice for Hendrix remember Jimi died at the age of twenty seven so a younger black male actor would NEED to be the star of the movie. Lenny Kravitz is forty seven years old too OLD to play Jimi Hendrix. Again, Hendrix died VERY YOUNG so a younger black male actor is needed for this role. I think someone like Antony Mackie perhaps or Columbus Short.

  • Muse | May 8, 2012 1:28 PM

    LOL @ King.Tong. *In Little Richard's voice* shut up. I don't like to assume.

  • Muse | May 8, 2012 1:25 PM

    Fair enough. I was only thinking in terms of looks and acting skill, and didn't take age into account. Looks-wise, that guy from the upcoming BBC show Sinbad (Elliot Knight) would work, but I don't know yet about his acting chops. Any other suggestions?

  • king.tong | May 8, 2012 1:23 PM

    SMDH @Muse-- "Wood Harris (who played Avon Barksdale on the Wire)" . . . like folks don't know who Wood Harris is. What site do you think you're on, anyway?

  • ShebaBabY | May 8, 2012 1:19 PM

    Wood Harris has already played Jimi Hendrix in the television version of the movie and did an excellent job. Not sure who else would be able to pull this off in a feature film version but it shall be interesting.

  • bohemian_princess | May 8, 2012 1:07 PM

    Jeffrey Wright? Seriously? He's a great actor, I get it. Believe me I do, but he's about 20 years too old for the part as is Lenny Kravitz. I agree that an unknown would be best for the part.

  • Felicia | May 8, 2012 1:05 PM

    Jeffrey Wright, Wood Harris, and Lenny Kravitz are all too old to play Hendrix. He was 28 when he died. I, however, also think Andre 3000 is a bad choice.

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