Mike Epps has joined the cast of director Cynthia Mort's Nina Simone project, which will star Zoe Saldana as Simone and David Oyelowo as her Paris-based manager Clifton Henderson.
Epps will play Richard Pryor, in a supporting role. You'll recall Vanessa's review of the film's script, which included her thoughts on how the role could be cast:
Perhaps an older actor would be cast here, since Pryor is introduced in the early 90’s. Another scene with Pryor takes place in 1961, while Pryor and Nina wait backstage to be introduced for their acts [and] a scene with Nina sharing a joint with Pryor, while both reflect on their lives. Maybe a young actor will be cast?
The casting call sheet asked for an actor between 40 and 60, to play Pryor, adding:
Well you all know him and his brilliance is hard to find but show us what you got for this one. He was friends with Nina and performed at the same venue with her when they were younger. Richard like Nina had a particular kind of brilliance, wit and edge.
So we'd likely be looking at Epps as he is now, representing a younger Pryor, as well as an aged Epps, with makeup, to reflect an older Pryor.
Simone was reportedly instrumental in calming Pryor before he performed; he had terrible stage fright.
The film starts filming this week in Los Angeles, with Mark Burton, Barnaby Thompson, Stuart Parr and Ben Latham Jones producing.
As previously reported, Ealing Studios in the UK, is backing the movie.
By many accounts, Epps was the highlight of this summer's Sparkle remake. Up next, look for him in The Hangover Part III, as well as the thriller Vipaka, with Forest Whitaker, Anthony Mackie, and Sanaa Lathan.
While we're at it, here's a list of all the roles that remain to be cast, based on the casting call sheet we received about a month or so ago:
ANDREW STOWNE : Male, African-American, 30s. A young cop. Nina’s husband until their divorce, and father of her child, Lisa Simone…1 Scene
OLIVIA : Female, Caucasian, French, 25 to 30 years old. Young French Nurse who takes care of Nina in France and develops a relationship with Clifton. He is self assured and at ease with her self and quite charming and beautiful and of course , she becomes a true threat to Nina’s relationship with Clifton 3 Scenes
CLIFTON’S FATHER : Male, African American, late 50s to late 60s. Big African-American middle class Chicago guy with dark, engaging presence. 60s – 70. He is one demanding hard to pleas kind of dad – 2 Scenes
CLIFTON’S MOTHER : Female, African American, 50s to 60s. Attractive, middle class African-American woman who is a huge fan of Nina and incredibly proud her son is working for Nina. – 2 Scenes
HEATHER : Female, African American, 24 to 29 years old. Very pretty, slightly slicker than Clifton. She’s the girl Clifton’s been trying to get with for years. A girl used to being the center of attention, she is totally swallowed up by Nina’s charisma and talent. Like a flower in the sun, she wilts… 1 Scene YOUNG NINA SIMONE : Female, African American, age 8 to 11. Looking for a talented girl age 8-11 who can play the piano with ease, grace and guts. She is a tough cookie who has something to show the world. Please only submit African American girls who are talented classically trained Pianists and performers who look like a young Nina. MUST BE ABLE TO PLAY PIANO WELL. – 1 Scene
AL SCHACKMAN : Male GUITARIST, Caucasian 30s to 40s. Nina’s faithful guitar man. We are looking for a skilled guitar player in his early 30s-40s who Nina’s tireless Rock of Gibralter… Music has been good to him and he’s been good to himself…SUPPORTING
GILLE : Male, GUITARIST, African American, 30s to 40s. A very cool cat, African guitarist who Nina may have first met in Paris. He is part of her band for a long time and again we need a real musician here SUPPORTING.