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Andrew Dosunmu Takes Over Steve McQueen's Fela Kuti Biopic. No Word On Chiwetel Ejiofor

by Tambay A. Obenson
September 16, 2013 4:07 PM
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In my interview with Steve McQueen over the weekend, one of the questions on my list to ask him, was whether he still planned to direct a feature film based on the life Afrobeat pioneer and activist, Fela Kuti, which was to star Chiwetel Ejiofor

But, unfortunately, given only 10 minutes, I didn't get to that question (the interview will be posted in the next couple of weeks).

However, it looks like I didn't have to, because we have an answer to that question this afternoon.

Andrew Dosunmu (who's sophomore feature, Mother Of George opened theatrically over the weekend to strong per screen numbers) has been hired by Focus Features to direct the same Fela Kuti film that McQueen was previously attached to.

The news was announced by Focus CEO James Schamus and co-CEO Andrew Karpen this afternoon. 

The film has no connection to the Bill T. Jones Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Fela!, but will instead be based on Michael Veal’s 2000 book Fela: The Life and Times of An African Musical Icon, and has been adapted to script format by Nigerian author Chris Abani and James Schamus, who penned the most recent drafts.

Whether Chiwetel Ejiofor will still star as Fela isn't yet known, however, given the fact that he's seemingly *hot* at the moment, thanks to the critical acclaim 12 Years A Slave has been receiving, after its Telluride and Toronto premieres, I wouldn't be surprised if an announcement is eventually made, revealing his attachment.

This is big for Dosunmu, a Nigerian himself, after the still barely-seen Restless City (his feature film directorial debut) and the newly-released Mother Of George. His enthralling visual style meshing with Fela's boldness and brashness in terms of both his persona and music, should make for an interesting collision on screen.

Let's hope Bradford Young is brought along for the ride.

I have to say how pleased I am that Focus Features is going with a black director on this (a Nigerian director especially), while other studios continue to produce biopics based on the lives of black public figures, written and directed by white writers and directors - most recently Tate Taylor replacing Spike Lee on producer Brian Grazer's James Brown biopic.

Stay tuned...

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  • Dankwa Brooks | September 20, 2013 8:19 PMReply

    I'm Dankwa Brooks discerning filmmaker and I approve this hiring. LOL. I think Donsunmu is the PERFECT director for this and while I'm a HUGE FAN of Bradford Young (I've seen like every feature film he's shot) I want another black cinematographer to get some shine.

  • Ava | September 17, 2013 6:33 PMReply

    Hopefully this was an amicable transition of the Director's chair. Now that someone mentioned it, I too am curious as to why McQueen is no longer attached to the project.
    Having said that, I feel excited that Dosunmu will be directing this biopic. Both McQueen and Dosunmu have vibrant and vivid visual styles but there is a very strong part of me that believes that Dosunmu being Nigerian will bring a specific energy to this story.
    As for Ejiofor, I just saw that picture above of Fela and the cheekbones have it! I could see it visually but I wonder whether Ejiofor can really move with the type of energy that Fela danced with. That will be a must.
    But I'm excited to see how this all proceeds and I hope it will be a stunning success!

  • Dankwa Brooks | September 20, 2013 8:20 PM

    I think McQueen is just too much in demand right about now.

  • Z Strachan | September 17, 2013 4:51 PMReply

    " I have to say how pleased I am that Focus Features is going with a black director on this (a Nigerian director) especially". Isn't Steve McQueen black?

  • Donella | September 16, 2013 7:06 PMReply

    I like the thought of Chiwetel.

  • TYRON TACKETT | September 16, 2013 6:45 PMReply


  • Terence Nance | September 16, 2013 6:01 PMReply the end of the day, this is as it should be. If any movie should be ANDREW's movie it should be this one. It feels like the stars aligning.

  • Terence Nance | September 16, 2013 5:59 PMReply

    I jumped up and down with joy and cried at the same time. They should both make the movie simultaneously like the Capote or White House Down situation. Or they should do a super epic 4 hour version and each do 2 hours, that would be the best case scenario....

    But Brad should shoot both.

  • AccidentalVisitor | September 16, 2013 5:37 PMReply

    Man, I seriously wished you had enough time to ask McQueen about that because even if he was leaving the project behind for good I woud love to know his reasons for doing so. Maybe he thought it was impossible for Fassbender to play Fela. :) I kid. I recall how Ejiofor was in training for months reortedly to get ready for the film with McQueen at the helm but the funding fell apart or never materialized. Amazing. No one wanted to make the Fela film even a few years ago but now suddenly the money is avialable even though McQueen won't be involved. Either these production houses and studios have suddenly changed their view on the profitability of atypical black films or Focus Features have already gotten word from Ejiofor (whom they are happy to be associated with at the moment) that he will indeed step in to play the lead. Maybe both? One can only hope.

  • ojie | September 16, 2013 5:08 PMReply

    Pleased indeed! However, do i see Chiewetel as Fela? Maybe when he takes a pic of himself much skinnier and rough around the edges, then yes, his casting will gel, that is if he is even in it now anyways

  • michaboa | September 16, 2013 4:24 PMReply

    Either way I'm excited about the project.

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