By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act June 18, 2014 at 2:19PM
*UPDATE: Corey Hawkins has been announced as the actor selected to play Dr Dre in the film, which obviously means that the previously-mentioned Marcus Callender is out. Universal Pictures has also set a release for the film for August 14, 2015, starring O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell as Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy-E, directed by F. Gary Gray (Friday, Set It Off, The Italian Job). The drama is produced by original N.W.A. members Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, who are joined by fellow producers Matt Alvarez and Tomica Woods-Wright. Will Packer serves as executive producer of the film alongside Gray. My original post follows below...*
@FGaryGray: 3 YEARS & THOUSANDS of auditions and have finally found my cast for #straightouttacompton LET'S GO!!! http://t.co/Ijno1FiHLx
A tweet from director F. Gary Gray moments ago, which was accompanied by the above photo (and below) of the 3 actors who've been cast to play the film's 3 leads: Ice Cube, Dr Dre and Eazy-E.
2 days ago, I shared an unconfirmed Billboard magazine report which stated that, joining Ice Cube’s son, O’Shea Jackson Jr. (who will play Cube) will be 2 relatively-unknown actors in Jason Mitchell (Eazy-E) and Marcus Callender (who will play Dr. Dre) in Universal’s NWA biopic, "Straight Outta Compton," which will be directed by F. Gary Gray.
While director Gray's tweet didn't include the names of the 3 young men (although we know Cube's son on the left), I can only assume that both Callender and Mitchell are in the photo.
You'll recall about a year ago, when director Gray insisted on casting *unknowns* for each starring role - a move I applauded - 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. F. Gary Gray told Rolling Stone in a March interview that what 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."
Research tells me that Callender is a professionally-trained actor, who studied the craft at State University of New York at Purchase, and is a grad of The Public Theater's Shakespeare Lab (a professional actor development program that immerses a carefully selected company of professional, mid-career actors in a summer intensive, performing Shakespeare). He also has some screen credits - although it's a very short list with just 4 projects listed (all in 2013), primarily bit parts in TV series.
As for Mitchell, as I said in a previous post, until I'm certain of which Jason Mitchell he is on IMDB (given that there are several), I can't say anything about his past work; or until more press on all the actors is released.
But something tells me that the lives of each of these actors will change after this.
You'll recall that both Eazy-E's son and daughter previously 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.
In a recent interview with The Guardian, Cube had a few things to say about the upcoming project: "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."
He also said that none of the real members of NWA will be in the film; not even in cameos apparently.
In April this year, it was revealed 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 the currently in-demand Jordan wasn't available. Group member Dr Dre reportedly wanted Jordan to play him in the film, which, frankly, I can't immediately picture.
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 the job.
Also worth noting, Eazy-E's widow, Tomica Woods, who inherited his share of NWA song rights, is also involved, as a producer.
The upcoming film was set to begin shooting this summer for a release next year, according to producers. Further casting announcements should be just around the corner.
Will Packer and Cube Vision’s Matt Alvarez are also producing.