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Jesse L. Martin Has Replaced Lenny Kravitz In Julien Temple's Marvin Gaye Biopic

by Tambay A. Obenson
March 4, 2013 1:58 PM
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What an interesting turn of events! Fans who've been calling for a Jesse L. Martin/Marvin Gaye biopic just might be getting their wish!

It's been a long journey for the various Marvin Gaye projects that we've been following since this site was created almost 4 years ago.

Our last Marvin Gaye biopic entry was in December when it was reported that Marvin Gaye's son (Marvin Gaye III), who's also a childhood friend of the man who had been cast to play his father, Lenny Kravitz, in

Julien Temple's Sexual Healing, had asked Kravitz to "walk away from the role," adding that he was "shocked" that Lenny actually agreed to star in the project, calling it "shameful."

What exactly was Marvin Gaye III's issue here? Same as many of the others. Here's what he told TMZ:

"The producers and directors of this film are very wrong and shameful ... [They're] trying to do a film about a low period in his life. They don't even know the whole story."

Recall my post on vices versus virtues in biopics about black public figures...

Further, while he and Lenny are still very much pals today, Marvin III was hoping that he could talk to Lenny openly about the project. He also said that he and other Gaye family members were going to meet with lawyers to figure out how they could stop the film from moving forward.

I don't believe Kravitz ever responded publicly to any of this.

It was about 2 weeks prior (in mid-November) that we first reported that Kravitz had been tapped to play Marvin Gaye in British filmmaker Julien Temple's previously titled Midnight Love project.

However, revealed this afternoon, Jesse L. Martin, who himself was attached to a different Marvin Gaye biopic, has now replaced Kravitz in Temple's film. No public statement on why this replacement happened.

Martin had long been attached to star in another Marvin Gaye biopic that was to be directed by newcomer, Lauren Goodman, and produced by James Gandolfini. Last we reported on that project was at least a year ago, when Martin, seemingly dejected at challenges he was facing in getting his project off the ground, said, in an interview, that he didn't think it would happen, adding that we might actually see it on the stage first before it becomes a film.

The remaining rundown of Marvin Gaye projects still in Limbo looks something like this: We know that F. Gary Gray has long been trying to get his Marvin Gaye project off the ground; and director Cameron Crowe has been working on a Marvin Gaye project for almost 5 years, with most recent news stating that Terrence Howard was in talks to play the man (previously offered to Will Smith).

Temple's film, which looks like it'll be first off the blocks, will focus on the making of the Midnight Love album, while Gaye was living in Belgium – a drug addict, essentially considered something of a has-been.

As I reported previously, Janis Gaye, the late singer's second and last wife (he was married twice), doesn't approve of Temple's project, because it would "focus on his drug abuse, on other negative aspects of his life.

And clearly Gaye's son doesn't approve either.

It was early in 2011 that it had been given a greenlight, and financing for its $8 million budget; although, at that time, there was no word on who was being considered for the title role.

Principal photography was scheduled to begin in Belgium late 2011, but that didn't happen. There were some rights issues outstanding.

An earlier report on this said that EMI, which holds the rights to Gaye’s music, on behalf of his children, Nona GayeMarvin Gaye III, and Frankie Gaye, was understood to be ready to give the greenlight to Julien Temple's $8 million film. So it could be that Temple doesn't need the explicit script approval from Gaye's family, nor Berry Gordy (who also opposed the project) to move forward with it, and it was strictly a music rights hold-up, which has now been resolved.

Shooting is now set to begin later this month in Europe, with Brendan Gleason co-starring alongside Jesse L. Martin as Gaye.

Let's see if this actually does move forward, or if it experiences further hold-ups.

In the meantime, catch Martin when he guests on Smash on NBC tomorrow night at 10pm ET/9pm C.

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  • Nadell | March 6, 2013 2:28 PMReply

    Exciting news! The frustrations have been heard and reached the ears of those in the decision making positions. Martin is a much better choice!
    If only this could've happened with the Nina Simone film....

  • Donella | March 7, 2013 11:50 AM

    "If only this could've happened with the Nina Simone film...." I was just thinking the same thing.

  • ALM | March 4, 2013 8:17 PMReply

    Thank you Jesus! A prayer answered today!

  • getthesenets | March 4, 2013 7:33 PMReply

    I hate the term "warts and all".

    There are articles, books,doc.s about Marvin Gaye's life and personal struggles.....his very public struggles.

    I saw a doc. called "last 24 hours of gaye's life" the other day and I think M.E. Dyson wrote a book about Gaye's life that I got as a gift one year.

    There's nothing bold or brave about making a film highlighting a public figure's shortcomings...actually the's lazy cowardly way to make a buck.

    Would take more creativity and talent to focus on less controversial aspects of the person's life and still make an interesting film.

    sex,drugs, rock and roll..stunts blunts hiphop

    seen the same story a million times

    beyond cliche...

  • CC | March 4, 2013 9:16 PM

    JMac, I think you've rolled a no-brainer. I agree, it should be about balance. And you're right, we haven't seen the script so lets keep our fingers crossed.

  • JMac | March 4, 2013 9:01 PM

    Oddly enough I agree with GTN. There's a lot of criticism against families of deceased celebrities/public figures on the presumption that they only want a scrubbed up, squeaky clean portrayal of their family member. How about they want a balanced depiction of the whole person? I think cinema has gone too far toward exploitation of hardships and (including poverty porn). People loved Marvin for a reason. Is it betraying art to place the same focus on aspects that made him famous as well as what made him infamous? If you just want to get up in people's trash, there are plenty of junky reality shows out there to satiate that hunger. Of course I don't guess anyone's seen the script for this movie (except maybe the family) so it's possible it doesn't focus mostly on his "low period." If it does, I don't think I'd really be interested. I saw that Last 24 hours doc too on Current where his family members recalled the events of his last day on earth. Did feel a bit like prying and not as much attention (in flashbacks) of moments that would have led to his drug use but then the primary focus was on that one day. I would hope a movie would do a better job.

  • CareyCarey | March 4, 2013 7:53 PM

    Hold it Nets, don't make your move too soon. I believe the devil (and the love) is in the details. I don't think it's fair to suggest it's that only lazy cowards who highlights a public figure's shortcomings. Granted, some folks have watched docs and read books about Gaye's life, but...

    But what's the central purpose of movies, and particularly, biopics?

    Yes, it's true, controversy sells like cheap perfume, but in staying true to the character, "controversy" is what the controversial do. And "interesting" does not draw a crowd. So "bold & brave" are not the devil in this argument.

  • Holliday Hills | March 4, 2013 6:31 PMReply

    Lenny Kravitz is black, btw... His mom is Roxie Roker, who is as black as the Ace of Spades (i say that lovingly, in that I am that black also). His dad is white, but we know what that means in this country, plus Marvin had a medium brown complexion so many hues of black actors could play him.

  • Ava | March 4, 2013 5:29 PMReply

    Although I do like Lenny, this is casting turning in the right direction. Only hope the script is worthy now.

  • CareyCarey | March 4, 2013 5:18 PMReply

    Again I'm agreeing with Akimbo.

    In reference to the much heated ado about nothing (the families input in biopics) I tend to believe they can be more of a impediment than an asset. Well, as Dankwa implied, who wants to see one-half of the story? And I can't help but believe the family is more concerned with telling "their" story.

    Now don't get me wrong, if certain "alleged" improprieties are nothing but rumors and/or unsubstantiated gossip, I could care less if they're included in a biopic. But in the case of Marvin Gaye, his whole life and career was immersed in a drug world. And possibly, by a natural extention, that could lead to Berry Gordy holding up the stop sign. There's no secret that the drug culture had a stronghold on Motown's early life. Which, by the way, led to the demise -- and death--of many of it's performers, including, as we know, Marvin Gaye.

    Marvin's substance abuse problems did not start with Midnight Love era. That was just the beginning to the end.

    But in the end, this biopic will only be as good as the director's vision and his ability to give us a story that's not steeped in camp, feel good memory lanes and half-truths.

    On the issue of Jesse L Martin vs Lenny Kravitz, personally, I would prefer Kravitz. Although Martin is an adequate actor and he looks --somewhat- like Marvin Gaye (how important is that nonsense anyway?), I know Mr. Kravitz can reach and embody the heart and soul of R&B singer, and all that encompasses. And, without question, on the business tip, Kravitz would be the wise choice. When I hear the name Jessie L. Martin, I think of the struggles facing Idris Elba. Who are those guys behind those Foster Grants, anyway? I don't think the average audience can answer that question.

  • Donella | March 4, 2013 5:16 PMReply


  • Open Letter To Carlos | March 4, 2013 6:41 PM

    Hate on me, hater, now or later 'cause I'm gonna do me, you'll be made, baby. Go 'head and hate on me, hater, I'm not afraid of what I got to say, you can hate on me. Ooh, if I gave you peaches outta my own garden and I made you a peach pie, would you slap me out?
    Wonder if I gave you diamonds out of my own womb would you feel the love in that or ask why not the moon?

  • carlos | March 4, 2013 6:07 PM

    You sure write a lot that nobody's going to read.

  • Carlos | March 4, 2013 4:52 PMReply

    Lenny Kravitz? What the hell were they thinking? Mr. Martin is a much better choice. Actually, compared with Lenny Kravitz, Adam Sandler would've been a much better choice.

  • dee | March 4, 2013 4:12 PMReply

    PERFECT!! I always said that he looked like Marvin Gaye and should play him in a biopic. Now lets just hope he delivers.

  • Amy Green | March 4, 2013 3:39 PMReply

    Great choice! Rooting for him, love his work. Super talented, and LOOKS more like Marvin Gaye. Usher for the younger Marvin, maybe?

  • Dankwa Brooks | March 4, 2013 3:13 PMReply

    First as a 'Law & Order' fan I'm happy for Jessie. I really saw him grow as an actor on that show and was sad that the reason he left the show, to do a Gaye biopic, never got off the ground.

    As far as the family, I've said on this site before, no one wants to see a whitewashed version of a celebrity. Tell as an accurate story as you can to the person's real life.

  • Bee | March 4, 2013 3:10 PMReply

    Thank you! I suppose there is a god, after all. But seriously, this is the right move, in every way. I'm proud of Jesse L. Martin and can't wait to see him as Marvin.

  • Darkan | March 4, 2013 2:45 PMReply

    In a world where so much goes wrong, it's great to see when something finally goes right. I will be supporting this film 100% now!

  • Akimbo | March 4, 2013 2:43 PMReply

    But waaah, the kids don't approve of the project! Come on in with the 80-plus outraged comments...or does approval only matter when it's Zoe Saldana? In all seriousness, the approval of a subject's kids doesn't really effect me, but the disapproval of their friends & peers does. I'm wondering if Gordy's opposition is self-serving or if there is merit to it.

  • Same ol same ol | March 5, 2013 8:45 AM

    @Akimbo...Misogyny in the guise of casting authenticity concerns. In keeping with the relentless scrutiny aimed at actresses here, despite the resemblance, Jesse Martin at 44 is a tad old since Marvin Gaye was only 32 when Midnight Love came out.

  • Same ol same ol | March 5, 2013 8:45 AM

    @Akimbo...Misogyny in the guise of casting authenticity concerns. In keeping with the relentless scrutiny aimed at actresses here, despite the resemblance, Jesse Martin at 44 is a tad old since Marvin Gaye was only 32 when Midnight Love came out.

  • anon | March 4, 2013 2:27 PMReply

    glad a black man is playing marvin hopefully they will take note and have an ACTUAL black woman play a black womman in biopics but i aint holding my breath!

  • dee | March 4, 2013 4:15 PM

    Lenny Kravitz is BLACK... however, Jessie L Martin is a better choice.

  • Erik W | March 4, 2013 2:02 PMReply

    THANK GOD!!!

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