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Marvin Gaye's Family Rejects Lenny Kravitz Casting In Biopic + Taking Legal Action To Block

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by Tambay A. Obenson
December 3, 2012 11:16 AM
29 Comments
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And so it begins... This must happen every single time a biopic on the life of a public personality (in this case, a black public personality - alive or dead) is announced and/or cast.

Recall my post titled On Recent Biopics Of Black Public Figures - Their Legal Rights, As Well As Ethical/Moral Obligations?, which was posted a couple of weeks ago, and which investigated the struggles recent biopics of black public figures have experienced in trying to reach the screen; If you missed it, read it HERE.

Not that this will stop this particular film from being made; last we reported, necessary rights that would allow the film to move forward, have been cleared, so director Julien Temple doesn't have anymore legal issues to get in the way of his production.

And by "this" Im referring to this morning's news that Marvin Gaye's son (Marvin Gaye III), who's also a childhood friend of the man who's been cast to play his father, Lenny Kravitz, has reportedly asked Kravitz to "walk away from the role," adding that he's "shocked" that Lenny actually agreed to star in the project, and calls it "shameful.

So what's Marvin Gaye III's issue here? Same as many of the others... take a guess. 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."

Does that sound familiar?

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

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

No comment from Kravitz yet.

It was about 2 weeks days ago that we first reported that Kravitz had been tapped to play Marvin Gaye in British filmmaker Julien Temple's previously titled Midnight Love project (named after the album Marvin Gaye recorded in Brussels in the early 80s).

The film, which S&A has been following since it was first announced early last year, will focus on the making of the Midnight Love album, while Gaye was living in Belgium - a drug addict, considered a has-been at the time.

If you recall, of all the Marvin Gaye films that have long been in development, Julien Temple's, at one time, seemed the most likely to be completed first; 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 last year, 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 the project, and it was strictly a music rights hold-up, which has now been resolved.

As for the other Marvin Gaye projects in the works, here's a quick rundown: We know that F. Gary Gray has long been trying to get his Marvin Gaye project off the ground; and we also know that Jesse L Martin has been attached to star as the soulful singer in a film directed by newcomer, Lauren Goodman; and director Cameron Crowe has been working on a Marvin Gaye project for about 5 years now, with news that Terrence Howard was in talks to play the man (previously offered to Will Smith).

Let's see where all this goes... if anywhere.

Some have wondered why there hasn't been as much outrage over this, as there was over Zoe Saldana's casting as Nina Simone. I'll leave that to you guys to sort out...

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29 Comments

  • Cookie cutter | January 8, 2013 1:28 PMReply

    A few items about this thread, first of all Jesse Martin without a doubt is the hands down favorite to play Marvin Gaye. He is a great actor and he looks like Marvin. As far as the comments abouut Aretha, yes she is overweight and I am being kind probably obese, but she is not ugly in my view, the weight distorts people's actual looks, look at Jennifer Hudson from when she was really fat. By the way, Hudson is not a size 2. I think of all the voices I have heard Hudson is closest to Aretha Franklin and she could play her without gaining weight there are ways around that. Last, I agree with whoever said that darker skinned black women are considered ugly, this is imposing European standards of beauty onto women of a darker hue who are still beautiful this is why so many little black girls have self esteem issues.

  • Africameleon | December 3, 2012 11:27 PMReply

    No disrespect to Lenny Kravitz but.... Word! I'm glad they're suing, though I'm unsure of what will become of the suite.

  • Orville | December 3, 2012 11:23 PMReply

    There isn't outrage from most black men because black male actors are still MEN. Men regardless of race in Hollywood still have male privilege. A black man in Hollywood can still have a very successful movie career and be ugly look at Don Cheadle or Forrest Whitaker those guys are gross. Also, in Hollywood a black man can be dark skinned and be a leading man being dark. By contrast, darker skinned black women are discriminated against because Hollywood prefers their leading black ladies to be multatto or mixed race.

    Thank goodness, glad Marvin Gaye's son spoke up and to think Lenny Kravtiz is supposed to be the son's friend yet he would agree to appear in the film. I am so glad Marvin Gaye's family is suing. Look at Jimi Hendrix family Hollywood knows not to mess with them they are trying to maintain Jimi's legacy and Marvin's family is trying to do the same thing.

  • ALM | December 4, 2012 6:42 PM

    @ Orville: You made the comment above, and then you turned around in the comments below and made derogatory comments about Fantasia. Are you schizophrenic?

  • Boomslang | December 4, 2012 12:08 PM

    @Orville,

    Dayum! who the hell peed in your choco pops today . You are taking a dig at every blacktor .Especially the middle aged dark ones. Um.. a good blacktor doesn't have to be pretty . Cheadle doesn't need to look like Denzl , Forrest doesn't either . Do you not like african features or what .

  • Peace82 | December 3, 2012 11:05 PMReply

    I think Jessie Martin was the best choice for this project. It doesn't bother me that Lenny looks nothing like Marvin Gaye. It bothers me more that he's not really a trained or strong actor. I've seen the few projects he's done and I'm not all that impressed. A lot of turmoil took place in Marvin Gaye's life. The actor who takes on that role needs to be able to handle that level of emotion. Not convinced LK is that actor.

  • JMac | December 3, 2012 8:16 PMReply

    Maybe there's not as much outrage because black men generally don't care that much about specific casting. Plus the whole "let's hire someone who doesn't look anything like the person being portrayed and isn't anywhere near the right shade" occurs much more regularly with black female characters than black male characters.

  • Lauren | December 3, 2012 5:27 PMReply

    "Some have wondered why there hasn't been as much outrage over this, as there was over Zoe Saldana's casting as Nina Simone" Duh! Double fucking standard as always-women take the brunt of casting bullshit.

  • FactChecker | December 3, 2012 3:19 PMReply

    Maybe there's less outrage because black men who are actors in Hollywood -- both journeymen and stars -- aren't suffering as much, in terms of work opportunities, as black women are. Just a theory. I, for one, am outraged. I agree that the filmmaker is stupid for focusing on the last part of Gaye's life, as opposed to the beginning and pinnacle of his career. And I feel very strongly that Jesse L. Martin is the ONLY actor who should play Gaye. Martin has all of the talent, physical attributes and desire to channel this music icon. ... I really like Lenny and I get it, he's trying to build his acting career, but I wish he, Zoe, and anyone else out there who is hailed by the media as the current flavor-of-the-month, but is not a well-trained, tried and true, gifted actor who has REALLY studied his or craft, would take a page from Halle Berry's book and gracefully BOW OUT! Remember, a few months back when Queen Aretha was running around shouting from the roof-tops that she wanted Halle to play her in a biopic? Halle quickly -- and in a very classy fashion -- nipped that pipe dream in the bud, saying she couldn't hold a note to save her life. And I'm sure she recognizes, but is too classy and kind to say so, but she and Aretha don't look anything alike! Never have, never will. AND, at her lowest weight, when she was young, Aretha was still far bigger than Halle has ever been. ... And ever since Halle made her thoughts public, you haven't hear a peep out of Aretha. Jennifer Hudson would make a great Aretha.

  • ALM | December 4, 2012 6:40 PM

    @ Orville: You mad, son??? Fantasia is not ugly,and Fantasia has lost all of her baby weight. Did you see the Soul Train Awards 2012? Fantasia looks AMAZING. Even at her highest weight, Fantasia was never as heavy as Aretha. I should have expected this type of comment from a man who thinks that Anthony Mackie is better looking than Idris Elba.

  • turner | December 4, 2012 8:48 AM

    @Orville... "No offense to Aretha Franklin fans she's not an attractive woman. Maybe someone ugly like Fantasia Barrino can play Aretha Franklin she's fat like Franklin" What a mean queen you is!

  • Ashley1 | December 4, 2012 3:11 AM

    Orville, REALLY? So only "ugly" women should play Aretha? What cup of bullshit are you sipping from? I STILL say Audra McDonald should do Aretha (lip syncing of course) although I'm scared of the movie's outcome with Aretha being so closely attached. Aretha's desire to cast Halle gives us a glimpse into her mental world. It's like Nina Simone actually wanting Zoe Saldana to portray her.

  • Orville | December 3, 2012 11:27 PM

    Jennifer Hudson would be a terrible choice for an Aretha Franklin biopic because Jennifer is beautifil and in amazing physical shape. I doubt Jennifer would want to get fat again just for a film role. Jennifer is now a size 2 she doesn't want to get heavy again.

    No offense to Aretha Franklin fans she's not an attractive woman. Maybe someone ugly like Fantasia Barrino can play Aretha Franklin she's fat like Franklin to she would be a better choice.

  • turner` | December 3, 2012 5:30 PM

    Jennifer Hudson can sing her ass off- she cannot act and her Oscar was a sentimental trophy for losing on American Idol.

  • Donella | December 3, 2012 3:48 PM

    My feelings are the same on this.

  • ALM | December 3, 2012 1:29 PMReply

    Apparently Gaye's son and Lenny aren't as close friends as he would like for us to think. If they were that close, Lenny would have placed a call to him prior to accepting the role. Even if Lenny thought that Gaye's son would approve, it would have been nice to have called him as a heads up out of respect. As for the lack of outrage here, it seems to rest on sexism. Since Zoe is a woman, some people seem to have more venom for her.

  • James | December 3, 2012 1:01 PMReply

    The reports I read said that this isn't a casting issue, but but that MPG3 is upset that the movie focuses on the MPG Jr's darkest, drug-fueled days. So the problem is with the script, not the casting according to this: http://www.tmz.com/2012/12/03/marvin-gaye-lenny-kravitz-son/

  • James | December 3, 2012 1:25 PM

    Here's the quote from MPG3: “The producers and directors of this film are very wrong and shameful,” Marvin Gaye III told TMZ. “[They're] trying to do a film about a low period in his life. They don’t even know the whole story.”

    So this is not Zoe Saldana redux.

  • politicallyincorrect | December 3, 2012 12:54 PMReply

    Some have wondered why there hasn't been as much outrage over this, as there was over Zoe Saldana's casting as Nina Simone.

    Because Lenny & Marvin have the same look. I am sure if Corbin Bleu played Marvin Gaye it would be an uproar

  • Darkan | December 3, 2012 1:48 PM

    @Politicallyincorrect, what photos are you looking at!!! They look nothing alike!!! Lenny Kravitz is two to three shades light than Marvin and has no facial feature similarities. That's like Tyrese Gibson wanting to play Teddy Pendergrass. SMDH. ALM is right, whenever I saw Jessie L Martin I always said, man, that brother looks like Marvin Gaye. Even my mom called me and was fussing about Lenny playing Marvin Gaye. She couldn't believe it.

  • politicallyincorrect | December 3, 2012 1:41 PM

    They are close enough, they aren't total opposites in terms of looks

  • ALM | December 3, 2012 1:30 PM

    Lenny and Marvin look nothing alike. Marvin and Jesse L Martin could have been brothers.

  • AccidentalVisitor | December 3, 2012 12:51 PMReply

    Why there isn't as much outrage as the Nina Simone biopic? Well, Marvin Gaye had a dick. LOL. Seriously in case you haven't noticed the traffic on this site is much heavier for blogs/writeups that focus on women. A writeup about a relatively unknown black female who gets a small supporting role in an uninteresting-looking Lifetime TV film could at times generate more responses than a writeup about a black male who gets a lead in a major motion picture. For whatever the reason the passion isn't there. Its kind of like Ebony magazine that was created for black people in general but has now become dominated by its female readers and stories that are geared towards them. Not blaming the women for this, black men have to make themselves heard and participate more in the process. Anyway we don't critique the casting of black men as much as we do with black women as I pointed out before. I mean, hell, Kravitz isn't even an actor; he is surely far less accomplished than Zoe Saldana ,but his casting will get far less grief. Kravitz may be "less black" than Zoe for all we know considering his father is white. Doesn't matter. Also perhaps the pushback from Gaye's family didn't come nearly as quick as the pushback came from Nina Simone's daughter. The latter helped explode the controversy regarding Zoe's casting.

  • Ashley1 | December 4, 2012 2:53 AM

    But the article is not about casting, it's about the actual story. Why should there be outrage about the casting? His son isn't even mad about it. Apples and oranges.

  • brooklyn70 | December 3, 2012 3:21 PM

    i love myself some lenny kravitz and i can't wait to see the movie. but i am scratching my head about the lack of "outrage". zoe saldana plays nina simone...all hell breaks loose. lenny kravitz plays marvin gaye...not a peep. i think you're right AccidentalVisitor. there is an imbalance in the way our community critiques black actresses.

  • Monique A Williams | December 3, 2012 12:48 PMReply

    Terrence Howard? Lol. Damn, the well is that dry???

  • Tishauna7 | December 5, 2012 12:21 AM

    @Ashley1 there STILL should have been outrage...that casting choice is fucking absured. so if the family of Nina Simone was ok with Zoe saldana there wouldn't be any outrage?...really Ashley1 really? lol

  • Jeni | December 3, 2012 10:29 PM

    Ha! My sentiments exactly!

  • Artful Dodger | December 3, 2012 1:13 PM

    No, they haven't dug the well deep enough. They probably considered the same list of 8 (6?) black dudes who are always cast for this project.

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