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New Details On Mary J. Blige's Nina Simone Film (Budget, Casting, Shoot Dates, Official Synopsis)

by Tambay A. Obenson
May 16, 2011 3:58 AM
10 Comments
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In case you're just joining us, you may not be aware of the fact that Mary J. Blige's Nina Simone biopic appears to finally be in motion, with a scheduled principal photography start date set for May 30th, starring Blige in the title role, and Brit thespian David Oyelowo co-starring as Nina's late lover, Clifton Henderson.

The film is budgeted at $10 million, and financing is in place.

Over the weekend, I was privy to the film's casting sheet, which lists all the key roles in the movie, as well as full descriptions of them; it also gives an official synopsis for the film which reads: "Musical legend Nina Simone, an adored singer, composer and classically trained pianist, has been on the downward slide for years because of her secret, life long struggle with mental health issues. These issues manifest as incidents of drug and alcohol abuse and temperamental on-stage antics. Nina is broke but not broken when she meets Clifton Henderson, a trained nurse who becomes her manager, her best friend, and finally, her lover. In this sweet younger man, Nina finally finds the love and stability she needs to make a glorious -- but tragically short-lived -- comeback."

So, there ya have it. It's not a traditional biopic; it's not going to cover her entire life, from birth to death, which is actually wiser. As I've said before, I think a study of a significant part of the person's life, instead of trying to cram an entire life into 2 hours, just makes more sense.

As for the casting... I'm not at liberty to reveal all the details, but I can tell you that, while the film won't cover Nina's full life, there will be flashback sequences; I say that because one of the characters listed is for an 11/12 year old actress to play a young Nina, who will be seen in flashback scenes that take place in the 1940s, when Nina refuses to play at her high school concert unless her parents, who have been made to seat at the back of the concert hall (because they are black), are allowed to sit at the front.

I can also tell you that there's a part for an actor to play Dick Gregory at 36 years old, though it doesn't indicated how substantial.

Overall, it's a relatively long cast list, made up of characters of varying backgrounds and ages, and given the time periods each is listed, there'll be a few flashback sequences, with the film taking place in both the USA and France. The impression I'm getting is that this will be more of a quiet, meditative piece of cinema - an intimate portrait of only a portion of the woman's life.

Regardless, the casting of David Oyelowo aside, I'm still not so quite sure what to make of this project; I fear it just might be another Winnie (the film starring the pairing of another musician-turned-actor, and seasoned actor in Jennifer Hudson and Terrence Howard - and we've seen the trailer for that... unfortunately).

But, we'll just have to wait and see how it all shakes out; who knows? We may actually be proven wrong for doubting Mary J's ability to play the part and carry the film. We'll see..

With shooting scheduled to begin at the end of this month, and for 6 weeks according to the casting sheet, barring any unforeseen events, we should be getting our first look at this by the way of pictures and a trailer/clips by the early fall, if not sooner.

I'll be watching...

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10 Comments

  • MichelleToo | May 16, 2011 10:39 AMReply

    Go Blu!

    Hey, maybe you can dance while I play?

    And then we can show the audience what Black artist who keep it real are all about!

    Word!

  • BluTopaz | May 16, 2011 8:37 AMReply

    LMAO @ MichelleToo

    Well a few weeks ago i could not even do The Dougie, but I just started taking classes with Alvin Ailey n'ems choreographer. I'm shaking the haterz too.

  • Screen Nation | May 16, 2011 8:28 AMReply

    $10m is fine and it all sounds reasonable as its an important movie and I have faith in Mary channeling and the director doing a good job. British production isnt it?

    Looking forward to David finally getting a break out of this.

    Nina was a real serious lady. Will keep an eye out for this.

  • MichelleToo | May 16, 2011 8:26 AMReply

    I agree!

    Mary will do an excellent job. I too, have had to deal with nothing but hate since I was selected to play the cello at Carnegie Hall. I have never played the cello, but really, it isn't that hard. I have been working with YoYoMa's coach and he says that I am really coming along nicely.

    I hate it when people get all uppity about ability and training. It isn't fair. And without even seeing someone's work? I mean, I think that we shouldn't get too caught up in ideas of excellence. Just let it all hang out, I say!

    Hope to see all you haters at my concert!

  • NothingButAMan | May 16, 2011 5:47 AMReply

    calling on the blood of the lamb to bless her acting coach on this one...

  • Pask | May 16, 2011 5:32 AMReply

    I think she'll do an awesome job. I think it'll be a role that Mary will fully immerse herself into and do it some justice.

  • tambay | May 16, 2011 5:20 AMReply

    @ Urban Cineaste -

    That's the figure I've been given; but it's inline with budget averages for black-themed feature films, which are released in theaters. "Jumping The Broom" for example cost roughly $6 million, for example.

    No word on estate approval to use her music.

  • TooGood | May 16, 2011 5:18 AMReply

    this site sucks nothing but hate..

  • Urban Cineaste | May 16, 2011 5:12 AMReply

    Surely the budget must be incorrect $10M seems awfully low more TV movie than something looking for big screen release.

    I do hope they manage to pull it off.

    Any word on whether they have estate approval to use Simone's music in the film?

  • Mr. Bubbles | May 16, 2011 5:08 AMReply

    You will be proven wrong! Mary J. can do this! Let us learn to give people a chance b4 doubting. Mary has been working with some of the best in acting coaching.

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