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Watch 4-Minutes Of Footage From Jesse L. Martin's Marvin Gaye Biopic

by Tambay A. Obenson
September 18, 2013 1:15 PM
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Jesse Williams/Marvin Gaye

Wow. This just snuck up on me, because I wasn't exactly expecting to see any footage so soon, especially with no new updates since our last report on the project, in June, when it was revealed publicly that shooting had been suspended on Julien Temple’s Marvin Gaye biopic, Sexual Healing, starring Jesse L. Martin (as Gaye), S. Epatha Merkerson (as Marvin’s Gaye’s mother, Alberta Cooper Gay), and Dwight Henry (as Marvin Gaye’s father, Marvin Gay, Sr.).

It was reported that there was a possibility that the film might not see completion (at least, not anytime soon), because Focus Features International, the company that picked up the project initially, and shopped it at the Cannes Film Festival last May, had pulled out.

Reasons for Focus' exited weren't given, unfortunately (unless we just missed that announcement), although, at the time, I thought that it might have something to do with what follows.

Crew members were said to have not yet been paid fully for their work on the film, with one of the film's producers, Jimmy De Brabant, telling ScreenDaily that there was apparently a cash flow problem with the American investor backing the film; although he added that the funding that was promised by this investor had not yet arrived, but emphasized patience with the film's cast and crew, suggesting that the money was indeed coming.

At the time, it was said that about 70% of the film had been shot.

Although I'm still really curious to hear Focus Features' reasons for dropping out. There might be more to this than is public currently.

It's still not clear to me where the project stands - whether the financing eventually did come, or if shooting is still in Limbo.

What I did dig up today was the below promo reel featuring footage from the film, as well as a scheduled release date of April 1st, 2014, which is a Tuesday, meaning a home video release. Although April 1, 2014 will mark the 30th anniversary of Marvin Gaye's death, so I'm sure it's no coincidence, and a theatrical release is in the film's future.

If I'm able to learn more about where the project stands, I'll share here. 

In the video, you'll see that David Harewood and Clarke Peters are part of the film's cast, which we didn't know previously.

The film is set in the early 1980s, and focuses on the making of the Midnight Love album, while Gaye was living in Belgium - a drug addict, considered something of a has-been at the time.

Also Brendan Gleeson co-stars, playing Freddy Cousaert, who helped Marvin get back into the swing of things.

Grammy Award-winning producer Vassal Benford is executive producing, and will also compose the score. 

Principal photography was taking place in Luxemburg and Belgium.

Here's your first look at the film:

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More: Jesse L. Martin

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  • Josh | October 16, 2013 6:01 PMReply

    Why didn't Julien Temple and Vassal Benford have Jesse lip sync in the movie? If you are gonna do a movie about a music icon, the actor who play the person should lip sync. Artists like Marvin Gaye had a voice that could not be duplicated. I like Jesse and I think he pull it off but he should have lip sync. Should have left Marvin's voice alone. Jamie Foxx lip sync in Ray, Angela Bassett lip sync in What's Love Got To Do With It

  • amaka | September 20, 2013 2:39 PMReply

    taken down smh

  • Deborah Hatter-Grant | September 19, 2013 4:55 PMReply

    This is a train wreck. With lots of "fatalities." Disrespectful and contrived...Marvin's family must be horrified by this. Because I ceretainly am...smdh.

  • Adolf El Assal | September 19, 2013 1:13 PMReply

    Who managed to get hold of this footage? Take this down asap! It's copyright infringement!!!

  • carrington | September 19, 2013 11:44 AMReply

    This doesn't look, feel or seem like a good film at all to me! I'm going to skip this one. Marvin deserves much better then this appears! I truly hope I'm wrong! Because there are so many wonderful stories to be told that one bad outing can destroy what could have and should have been a great look into the life of a fascinating human being. Remember Ali starring Wil Smith?

  • michael dunham | September 19, 2013 10:15 AMReply

    Jesse is a great actor, but I would've done a MUCH better job on the vocal side.

  • Commentary by Valentina | September 18, 2013 9:27 PMReply

    Interesting. I always thought Usher would end up playing Marvin.

  • SAVANNAH MORGAN | September 18, 2013 7:04 PMReply

    Seems DARK and I'm not referring to the "lighting". Im all for autonomy and making your movie like you want to... just... why the pathology & depressive tone? Of course Marvin Gaye's life was filled with ups and downs whose isn't... my point sure would be nice to see Distant Lover, Just to Keep you Satisfied, Got to Give It Up, Inner City Blues, You Sure Love to Ball MARVIN GAYE!!

    Thats worth a matinee feature!

  • Josh | October 16, 2013 5:50 PM

    I think the movie is gonna focus on Marvin's dark moments like his struggles trying to get his career back on track and his addiction as well as his death. This movie doesn't follow his whole life. The treaser is not perfect and there are some kinks thatI hope get work out during the post production stage. Jesse was a great choice and I think he did Marvin Gaye justice. And he strangely looks just like Marvin. But Dwight Henry need a little moe acting lessons before he can play a big role like this. I was not impress with his performance. I thought he looks a little too young to play Jesse's father.

  • Terence Nance | September 18, 2013 6:46 PMReply

    This wasn't meant for public viewing I'm pretty sure. It gives away the entire movie.

  • Kirby Ashley | September 18, 2013 6:36 PMReply

    I'm having a hard time imagining a time when Marvin Gaye was considered a "has been." I don't remember ever considering him a has been.

  • NOSURPRISE | September 18, 2013 5:57 PMReply

    'PLEASE TAKE MY FILM"...Legalities? You reap what you sow. It will not succeed.

  • VASSAL BENFORD | September 18, 2013 4:06 PMReply


  • BluTopaz | September 18, 2013 7:55 PM

    Who told you Marvin was 3 shades darker as a child?

  • Destiny | September 18, 2013 6:01 PM

    I'd want this mess taken down as well.

  • Kdot | September 18, 2013 4:58 PM

    But it's on Youtube...

  • An Actor | September 18, 2013 4:05 PMReply

    I am so glad I am not the only one who thinks that this should not be seen. I hate that talent and time was wasted. Not the best choice for Marvin, therefore he will not make the best choices as an actor. He is a great actor, just not for this role. He has the look but as long as he doesn't speak it'll work. I don't know, I'm very disappointed. Come on people take time and cast properly.

  • CareyCarey | September 18, 2013 3:42 PMReply

    STOP THE PRESSES! Quick, somebody call down to Mississippi where the James Brown biopic is in production, and tell those guys to take a look at this travesty. Maybe they'll get the hint or catch a clue on how NOT to depict one of our greatest musical icons.

    But I doubt it. James Brown had too much black pride and black power and governmental scorn, that white guys just can't get with. And, just as Jessie and others may have been miscast, I am sorry but Chadwick Boseman may have been a convincing Jackie Robinson (to some but not me) he's not right nor ready to handle James Brown. So in the words of Marvin Gaye... [my pain] It's getting stronger and stronger and when I get that feeling I need sexual healing. Sexual healing, oh baby, makes me feel so fine, helps to relieve my mind and these ridiculous biopics are making me lose my-damn-mind.

  • CareyCarey | September 20, 2013 1:58 AM

    Good point BFORREAL, I stand corrected. I remember my daughter singing along with a group called The Emotions. She was only about 7-8 but she knew ever words and mimicked every emotion. Also, when I was a kid I remember playing my parent's older records (up in the attic) and listening to their music on a daily basis. Heck, that how most black kids first learned how to dance, dancing at home with their parents. So yeah, I feel ya.

    But one small correction, when one thinks of Al Sharpton's older hairstyle or early Barry White, they see James Brown's flowing "konk/process". In other words, when James Brown first hit the scene (60's) I don't believe Afros had quite found it's place, or at least most black entertainers where not rocking them. If we're talking about the age of Sly and The Family Stone and early Micheal Jackson, then BAM...we're talkin' afros, baby. In any account, James wasn't really noted for wearing big afros.

    But girl...whatchuknow about Donny, Millie and Bobby Blue Bland? Come on now, I believe there's few S&A readers who can talk about Bobby Blue Bland. His music is what we call that down home blues. And please, Donny? Listen, there's only one Donny...and I sure ain't talking about Donny Osmond, so you know a little something about Lalah's Daddy huh? Girl, you scare me. :-)

    But we're gonna have to get a room before some folks start whispering. Have a good nite-nite :)

  • Bforreal | September 19, 2013 11:18 PM

    I'm too young? Agism at its finest, Carey. *waves index finger* Many folks of my generation (I'll be 30 in less than a year) grew up with older relatives who listened to Marvin, Donny, James, Lenny, Millie, Bobby Blue Bland, etc., nonstop. So, I think I have pretty good sense of the man - though obviously not the way my grandmother had a good sense of him.

    I do agree that black biopics should be done by black directors. To me, that's just a matter of respect. Because, as you say, a white director likely just won't connect with the anxiety, etc. people like Marvin went through. I feel about this film the way I feel about the Nina Simone film.

    I don't happen to be a big fan of James Brown, but I grew up listening to his music, and I understand that the man was practically a world-wide pan African symbol of black power. He pretty much single-handedly brought the Afro into style - I mean, people in South Africa were listening to and watching him and rocking fros in cultures, for goodness sake. What Bob Marley did for Jamaica, James Brown in many ways did for black America. (Aside from his wife-beating ways, I respect and understand what James Brown was about).

    Anyway, there you go. :)

  • CareyCarey | September 18, 2013 11:27 PM

    BFORREAL, thanks, but I am leery of blanket compliments. So tell me, you're to young to know anything about James Brown or Marvin Gaye, so what are you agreeing with?

    Maybe you're agreeing with my opinion that these biopics should be rated B.D.O.... for Black Director Only, huh? Come on now, what white person can "feel" the pain and feel the inner grove of Marvin Gaye's album What's Going On? Do they know that album was akin to a black national album, and thus played over and over and over again in millions of black households? They can't know how Marvin Gaye lived in our souls, can they? We remember and feel every song, every melody and every word that takes us somewhere, a place no white person can relate to.

    Anyway, do you really know about James Brown and why I believe Chadwick Boseman should let it lay? Well, aside from the fact that he's young, unseasoned and thus a rookie at this game, white men can not give him something they don't possess. I mean, they'll never, can't ever reach the soul of a black man, so how can they (2 white guys) point him in that direction?

    Well, I posted this in another thread but I'm giving you a personal invitation to the definitive James Brown. It's actually a movie based on his autobiography. Check it out-->

  • Bforreal | September 18, 2013 8:28 PM

    Well, CareyCarey, you and I don't usually agree, but this is an exception. You are right.

  • Nadia | September 18, 2013 3:15 PMReply

    Some of y'all need to slow down. You realize this is just a promo reel right? It's not an actual trailer. This probably isn't footage that the public was meant to see which is probably why it doesn't flow and just feels like a bunch of scenes randomly clipped together. So hold on to your comments about the quality until you see a proper trailer, with all the post-production work done.

  • Darkan | September 18, 2013 7:17 PM

    Agreed Nadia!!!

  • DeeVee | September 18, 2013 3:37 PM


  • Leave Marvin Alone!! | September 18, 2013 3:11 PMReply

    Sighhh not here for it. they doing the same thing to Marvin they tried to do to Nina...How does Nona feel about this nonsense?? He was such a great mind and soul, why focus on the downward spiral :(

  • Bforreal | September 18, 2013 8:27 PM

    I agree! Besides, the clip lost me when Jesse started singing "Sexual Healing." Just not good.

  • Amin Joseph | September 18, 2013 3:08 PMReply

    Abysmal. They did Jessie wrong with this production quality and story. This has to be a joke. I wouldn't dare associate Marvin's name with this.

  • Guyver | September 18, 2013 3:07 PMReply

    Absolutely terrible, but should anyone be surprised? I n a country where movies like the butler and other slave/ servant movies get top production value it should be no surprise that our ICONS get spat on and thrown in the indie section. Shameful.

  • CareyCarey | September 18, 2013 2:56 PMReply

    Okay, in simple terms this-isn't-top-notch-cinema. It has the feel and tone of a Lifetime movie. And, as others have suggested, the acting leaves much to be desired, including, imo, Jesse's. He has the look but Marvin's subtle tone and off-stage shyness is missing. And please, who told Mr. Martin he should sing a Marvin Gaye song?

    In reference to Dwight Henry, I again have to agree that he's out of his element. With his unseasoned acting ability, he does nothing but validate my opinion that this biopic is turning out to be the twin sister of Lifetime's inventory of schmaltzy over-the-top superficial melodrama.

    One more thing, it was said money is in short supply, but please please please, when a new supply comes in, please invest in a proper sound score. I know this is a biopic on an R&B icon but R&B playing in the background is not sufficient to set the right tone - in every scene. I need to be moved in a different way when I am not tapping my feet or snapping my fingers or swaying to a love song.

  • BURP | September 18, 2013 2:55 PMReply

    It looks pretty bad..casting seemed off as well....I agree with Nikki below..this is not authentic portrayal of the man and I am not shocked that Focus would pull out on this film. This is going straight to Lifetime network

  • Nikki | September 18, 2013 2:35 PMReply

    This looks absolutely awful. Jesse Martin doesn't possess that ooze that Marvin had. He sounds NOTHING like him. And the ironic part is he lost his physical resemblance to Marvin trying to transform into him. A HUGE mistake as to have him sing. There is no Marvin-like sound at all. The guy playing Marvin Sr already seems terrible. As a avid Marvin admirer I'm disappointed in this mere clip. I can't imagine what a train wreck this movie will be. Marvin deserves more.

  • Curtis | September 18, 2013 1:59 PMReply

    Dwight Henry is miscast. He has no business being in this. That's too heavy of a role for him to play at this stage of his career. They should've gone with a more seasoned veteran to play Marvin's father. I'm just saying. But Jesse and Epatha should rock the ish outta this.

  • sthn | September 18, 2013 1:52 PMReply

    Damn, brotha Dwight Henry is getting roles!

  • Edwina | September 18, 2013 1:47 PMReply

    no words...

  • Darkan | September 18, 2013 1:32 PMReply

    They must be using this to secure more funding and lock distribution. Damn this looks awesome. Jessie L Martin is shining in this. The role was made for him and I'm glad he got to play it. Little put off by the singing and Dwight Henry's performance though. He can't play old. His performance looks like a mean George Jefferson.

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