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Andre Benjamin Talks Hendrix Project: 'This Movie Is The Real Sh*t Right Here'

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act November 14, 2012 at 3:51PM

Andre Benjamin Talks Hendrix Project: 'This Movie Is The Real Sh*t Right Here'
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Andre Jimi

I don't believe I've read/heard Andre Benjamin ever discuss the project, since it went into production a few months ago, surrounded by lots of buzz about music rights, concerns from the Hendrix Estate about the film (since they didn't authorize it), etc.

He may have been interviewed, and we just missed it, but this is the first time I'm reading comments from Mr Benjamin about the project since it went into production in May of this year.

In the interview with SPIN magazine, he doesn't say very much; at least, they don't print much, other than the below sentences of assurance and mystery:

"In researching him... I saw that a lot of the paths that he went down where the same ones that I went down when I was a young kid. He did what he thought was right for his music. I always gravitated towards him." Benjamin taps the top of the conference room table with his index finger. "This movie is the real shit right here," he says. "I think people will learn things they didn't know." About you? I ask. Benjamin grins. "Wait and see."

That's really all we can do at this point; wait and see. But he's certainly confident, despite some early concerns about whether he was the man for the job - forget the music rights issue.

Titled, All Is By My Side, and helmed by John Ridley, the film is currently in post-production, and I'm anticipating a Sundance 2013 debut.

As previously noted, many of you were disappointed when it was revealed that the project didn't have approval of Jimi Hendrix's estate to use any of the musician's original songs, with reps for the estate accusing the filmmakers of moving forward with the project without their official permission...

That didn't stop the production of the film, however, which shot in Ireland over the summer... but without the use of Hendrix's original music.

So how one can make a film on the life of Jimi Hendrix and not use any of Hendrix's music - especially when the film will center on the making of Hendrix's first album?

A work-around... as revealed in a Rolling Stone piece in July:

The film will not, however, include any songs written by Hendrix, the rights to which are controlled by the late guitarist's estate. Instead, the film – set in London in 1966 and 1967 – will include Benjamin's new versions of covers that Hendrix performed during those years, shortly before the release of his landmark debut, Are You Experienced. Audiences will see Benjamin singing "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (which Hendrix famously performed in a London club with members of the Beatles in the audience), "Wild Thing," "Hound Dog," Muddy Waters' "Mannish Boy" and Elmore James' "Bleeding Heart," plus two songs, "Future Trip" and "Driving South," that Hendrix played as a backup musician for Curtis Knight and the Squires.

So, no Hendrix-written classics like Purple Haze or The Wind Cries Mary. Unfortunate news that turned off many of you, as I recall. But I suppose they're doing what they have to do to get the film made.

What's really interesting about all this is that, according to the Rolling Stones piece, the producers actually never approached the Hendrix estate for permission to use hs songs because their plan was to set the film in "Hendrix's pre-fame era."

"This is the story of Jimi being discovered as a backup musician and how he went to London and became Jimi Hendrix," says the producer. McKittrick says that focusing on early stories about Hendrix – like the times he jammed with Cream and met Eric Clapton – is preferable to a biopic about Hendrix's full life story. "That would be like making a movie about Kurt Cobain," he says. "We all know how that story ends."

And in response to that, a rep for the Hendrix estate replied:

"They want to make a Jimi Hendrix movie without Jimi Hendrix music... It would be like making a movie about Lincoln without being able to use the Gettysburg Address."

Production company Matador Pictures has an official synopsis for the film on its website which reads:

This is the true story of the year Jimi Hendrix became the worldwide musical legend every generation worships as the greatest guitarist of all time. Based on the true events surrounding the year from 1966 to 1967 that Jimmy James Marshall arrived in England and returned to America as Jimi Hendrix. It is also very much the story of an amazing young woman named Linda Keith who literally plucked Jimi from obscurity and inspired him to play his music his way. Though the two would not remain together, the very rich, deep and true affection they shared stayed with them for the remainder of Jimi's too-short life. Their love is immortalized in the awe inspiring, yet over-looked Hendrix track titled 'Sending My Love To Linda'. Rather than another telling of the downward spiral of a rock icon, this is the detailing of how a love supreme changed music history.

So it's more of a love story it seems, focusing on just 1 year in Hendrix's life.

Also, a soundtrack album featuring the Andre Benjamin covered songs is a possibility.

Let's wait and see what that first teaser trailer looks like, which will probably turn up online any week now...


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