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Casting Woes Stalling NWA Biopic - Michael B. Jordan Was Top Choice To Play Dr Dre + More...

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act April 30, 2014 at 2:39PM

Casting Woes Stalling NWA Biopic - Michael B. Jordan Was Top Choice To Play Dr Dre + More...
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The N.W.A. movie casting saga continues, with word (according to THR) that Michael B. Jordan was at the top of the list of actors producers of the film were considering for roles in the biopic.


But Jordan is in demand at the moment, and thus isn't available. Group member Dr Dre reportedly wanted Jordan to play him in the film, which, frankly, I can't immediately picture. 

This is certainly news to me, given director F. Gary Gray's long-standing assertions that unknown actors would be cast to play the film's leads, especially given what is expected to be a relatively slim budget (by Hollywood standards). There have even been multiple open casting calls, primarily on the west coast, over the last year or so - most recently, in March, in Los Angeles.

"After Michael B. Jordan, the list of black actors with big names in that age group falls off a cliff," an insider told THR. "The casting situation is kind of a mess right now. And now you have Ice Cube tinkering with dialogue."

In addition, some footage has already been shot (not actual footage from the film - more like a promo for the group), but done in order to qualify for California's film tax credit, which is about to expire, and which will apparently be used in a presentation to Universal Pictures, the studio which will greenlight the project.

That presentation is said to be scheduled for early May.

But casting has apparently been a tough hurdle thus far, despite the open casting calls held recently.

In December, Universal Pictures hired Jonathan Herman to write the latest draft of the N.W.A. biopic, with former member of the seminal rap group, Ice Cube, producing. 

Originally set up at New Line, Universal picked up the sub-$25 million project in turnaround, with F. Gary Gray still attached to direct. John Singleton was, at one time, interested in directing.

You'll recall that both Eazy E's son and daughter claimed that they were either in the running, or would be the best fits to play their father in the movie; The son said that there was a "high probability" that he'd play the part; the daughter just wanted her shot. She even created an audition video, demonstrating her chameleon skills, which you can watch HERE.

When asked about all of that, producer Ice Cube said that no promises had been made to anyone regarding casting, and everyone was going to have to earn whatever role is given to them.

Cube added that none of the real members of NWA will be in the film; not even in cameos apparently.

In a recent interview with The Guardian, as his latest film, Ride Along, opened in the UK, Cube had a few more things to say about the upcoming project.

When asked specifically about the NWA biopic, he said:

We're getting the script tight and we're starting to cast. Hopefully we'll start shooting in April. We've had a few different writers; we're still working that out. We're going for a dramatic story that encompasses hip-hop, dope-dealing, Reaganomics, Aids, LAPD, rap feuds, FBI, PMRC, the Parental Advisory stickers on the records ... all of it.

Sounds ambitious! 

And further, when asked about rumors that his son, O'Shea Jackson Jr would be playing him in the film, Ice Cube shared:

Yes. I've been trying to get that pushed along. Just wanna make sure that he's the best man for the job.

He added that his son reminded him of himself at that age, stating:

At that age people think that I was all serious and mean, but there was a mixture of hot and cold. I could turn on a dime. And he has my temperament.

So add that wrinkle into the casting mix/mess. 

Also worth noting, Eazy-E's widow, Tomica Woods, who inherited his share of NWA song rights, is also said to be involved, as a producer. This was when the project was languishing at New Line. At the time, Andrea Berloff, who wrote the screenplay to Oliver Stone's World Trade Center, was to pen the script. Jonathan Herman (whose only IMDB writing credit is for an erotic short film titled Firepussy) is writing a new draft.

But for its part, Universal Pictures says that none of the roles has been cast yet, and any delays in getting the project off the ground have had more to do with getting the Cube and Dre together (who are both incredibly busy), to focus on it, than anything else.

Earlier this month, F. Gary Gray told Rolling Stone what he was looking for in actors to cast for the parts of Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Ice-Cube, MC Ren, DJ Yella and Arabian Prince (if "the crew's whole story is told").

Gray said he was looking for that "certain thing that a person from the hood has," adding that, "there are times where a thespian can get there and give it to you, sometimes they can't, and street credibility it's just that thing. When you watch American Idol and they have that 'It Factor' – there's a 'Hood Factor.' You get the authenticity when you're in an environment likes this, and you have an open call, and I've been seeing that, and I'm pretty happy with it.

The upcoming film was set to begin shooting this summer for a release next year, according to producers; but it hasn't been cast yet, with summer looming!

With these delays, casting challenges, and Ice Cube "tinkering with dialogue" and whatever else isn't being reported, I won't surprised if the project is eventually shelved.

This article is related to: F. Gary Gray, Michael B. Jordan


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