Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

What If Zoe Saldana's Nina Simone Movie Is Stronger Than You Expect It To Be?

Features
by Tambay A. Obenson
November 12, 2012 4:18 PM
22 Comments
  • |

I'm sure this isn't something that a lot of you even want to consider; BUT, before you have my head on a platter, let me explain myself...

Maybe you should be thinking about the possibility that, despite all the derision the project - specifically Zoe Saldana's casting - has attracted, it might... JUST might be better than you expect it to be, and you JUST may be surprised by what you eventually end up seeing on screen - those of you who plan to see it anyway.

You've got to believe that Zoe is certainly fully aware of all the criticism, and that all of it is serving as motivation for her to really give a strong performance - quite possibly, the performance of her life - if only to silence all the criticism.

From her POV, it probably feels like it's her against the world right now. Those who've been in a somewhat similar situation will understand what I'm talking about - essentially, when it seems like everyone doubts your ability or potential to accomplish something, and proving them wrong provides you with all the motivation you need; which means working harder than maybe you've ever worked.

Think of the under-dog and poster-board material!

So in an unintentional way, you just might be guaranteeing results that you may not want to see in the end product.

Forget the on-set photos that we've seen of Zoe in makeup, wigs, etc. One thing to keep in mind is that these aren't professional photos, and may not necessarily indicate exactly what she will look like when the film has gone through principal photography, post-production, and is eventually released. So we mock them now, but I'd wait to actually see a clip, a teaser or trailer, before completely dismissing the transformation.

I too was taken aback when I first learned that Zoe had been cast as Nina Simone; I just couldn't see her as Nina, at all, for what should be obvious reasons, that many other writers have already touched on. But the film is still being made (they're shooting it right now), and will eventually be released, which means it's not going anywhere, despite all your criticisms, petitions, etc.

It's very real, and it's coming whether you like it or not. 

Some will say that whether it's a good movie or not isn't the issue, and that it's more about an pervading ideology. And I completely understand that as well.

You could say that I'm just playing devil's advocate here. But it really is all something to think about. 

So what I'm curious to know is:

1. Has anyone with reservations considered the possibility that, thanks to all the criticism, the cast and crew involved will be inspired to make the best film of their careers, and that it just might end up being better than expected?

2. How many folks are actually hoping that the film sucks and fails at the box office?

3. How many are hoping that, despite their concerns about it, they still pray that, at the very least, it's a good movie?

Finally, a KEY point I want to make is that this is NOT a Hollywood movie, as I keep hearing and reading others say. It's not a Hollywood studio-backed film. The company behind it is a UK-based studio called Ealing.

So this is a UK-backed project, which means that it probably isn't a film that's being made specifically for American audiences. I'm sure they hope it'll play in the USA, but the USA is likely just one of several markets that it'll be released in; although it may be one of the secondaries; there may not even be any plans at the moment on a USA release. It certainly doesn't have a USA distributor yet.

Features
  • |

More: Zoe Saldana

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

22 Comments

  • Donella | November 13, 2012 4:58 PMReply

    I find the focus on Zoe Saldana's casting as the reason of the project's failure akin to the director/producer preparing themselves in advance to throw Saldana under the bus if something should go wrong. That's shifty and shady behavior. The storyline involves some sort of romance between Nina Simone and her nurse which is not truthful--that's the screenwriter's fault. Beyond that, the complete DISRESPECT the director/producer showed to Nina Simone's daughter by disregarding her input--that's the director/producer's fault. And that craptacular makeup--that's the makeup artist's fault. Saldana is NOT to blame for the director/producer's bad choices, creative failures, lack of leadership, lack of integrity, ignorance, or arrogance regarding this project (and that includes casting choices).

  • noel | November 13, 2012 12:48 PMReply

    Blunt talker it is not a hollywood film. Good points though

  • Orville | November 13, 2012 3:33 AMReply

    Why didn't Tambay just be real here, this Nina Simone biopic wasn't made for a black audience it was made for a white mainstream audience. Come on, Zoe Saldana, a mixed race Hispanic chosen to play an African American female icon and civil rights activist. I won't be seeing this film, and I don't care for Zoe Saldana she's an overrated actress. I sincerely hope Skyfall helps Naomie Harris get to the A list I would rather watch her movies.

  • blunt talker | November 12, 2012 10:35 PMReply

    The total disrespect towards Nina's family and only daughter makes people angry. At least Angelina Jolie sat down and talked to Marianne before filming the movie. Ms Jolie gave respect to the family even if she was not the right choice for the role according to people who disagreed with casting Ms. Jolie. Where is Ms. Mort and Ms. Saldana's respect for the feelings of Nina's remaining family members. They have shown none and refuse to involve the family. To make a movie based on a falsehood has upset the Simone family. They were left with no choice but to speak out in the media about their displeasure about the casting choice and the film's subject matter. No one would want a movie about their love ones made based on lies. The way hollywood decided to make this movie tells me two things:1. they know the subject of the movie is a lie but is making it anyway-won't talk to Nina's family. 2. Zoe has decided to do this movie without researching and talking to Nina's remaining family members means she is not professional and hardworking about her acting roles to make a movie that lies to the public. To select an actress who doesn't look like Nina's on/off screen is a terrible idea. People would connect to Nina's portrayal if the actress resembled her. Acting chops would also help with connection. I don't appreciate movies that make-up lies about a once living person that causes grief to the relatives alive today. Totally disrespectful with an evil heart.

  • Monie | November 12, 2012 8:39 PMReply

    You'd think with all the uproar that someone else was lobbying to make this film and got beat out. Where was the love for Nina before this? Everyone cries in outrage but who was speaking to her daughter about a real film? Sounds like sour grapes to me.

  • ALM | November 12, 2012 7:38 PMReply

    Two facts alone allow me to give a strong side eye to this project: 1. The fact that the male nurse was gay, yet is being portrayed as her love interest. 2. The fact that her daughter Simone's request for input has been completely ignored.

  • JMac | November 12, 2012 7:38 PMReply

    1. No. Why? Refer to daughter Simone's letter.
    2. and 3. Could care less. I won't see it and doubt UK/Europeans will want to either. Stop stirring the pot, Tambay. It's not that slow of a news day. Why not hunt down those other Nina Simone projects India Arie insinuated she'd been asked about (if any) if you want to find a new slant to this story?

  • monkeysuit | November 12, 2012 6:08 PMReply

    It's funny how much stock we put in casting choices. And some of the names that have been dropped as "better" replacements for Saldana like India Arie. C'mon. She ain't an actress. We don't know the exact reason for picking Saldana. She could've have just been the best/available/ affordable/ enthused person for the role. Or it could be another example of the erasure of dark skinned women. Who knows? But I do hope it's good.

  • Kat | November 12, 2012 5:34 PMReply

    I vote #2. This project is a turd! Won't bother watching this stinking mess...

  • milk does a tabloid good | November 12, 2012 5:18 PMReply

    Wow you folks really know how to milk a subject dontcha? How many posts have been about this movie already? Is this the only subject you get consistent comments on?

    There's still more milk in this teet.

    smh

  • bev | November 12, 2012 4:56 PMReply

    I hope nobody ever has to see it !!! I think morally this casting is wrong and Zoe should quit now while she's behind. She made a mistake on this one,but she is human and hopefully she will quit the filming and move onto something else where she can stretch herself and shine !!!

  • Nadia | November 12, 2012 4:43 PMReply

    I'm kind of between number 2 and 3. A part of me doesn't want it to do well with the hope that it'll just die a quiet death and then we'll eventually see another movie down the road. But there's also a part of me that wants it to at least not suck. Shrug

  • Tamara | November 12, 2012 4:40 PMReply

    I have no expectations. Zoe wouldn't have been my first choice to cast as Nina, but I have nothing against her doing the role. #4. No expectations.

  • Shala | November 12, 2012 4:32 PMReply

    Sorry, I still think this is a terrible idea. I'm not going around signing petitions which, as you state, isn't really going to help matters, nor am I silently wishing it would fail. I'm just sad that they went about it this way. I'm not knocking Saldana's acting ability at all but I just think that the look of Nina is very important to her story. Obviously, the producers/director thinks so too since they put Saldana in makeup and a wig. So why not use an actress that more completely embodies her? I just don't see them going to these great lengths to change the appearance of a man if the table were turned. That just doesn't sit well with me. I'm just sad about what that might say about how women of color are viewed in Hollywood.

    life-between-films.tumblr.com

  • Ugh | November 12, 2012 4:30 PMReply

    Nice try, but beyond the blackface makeup, if the movie they are shooting is based on the script that I've read more than once, this thing is dead on arrival. For one, the Nina Simone portrayed in the movie is a shadow of the vibrant, beautiful activist we all knew and loved so even if Zoe by some miracle were to nail this, the characterization of this strong powerful woman is already an issue. On top of that, she was in her 60's which Zoe obviously isn't. What I am expecting is a portrayal on par with Thandie Newton's version of Condelezza Rice in "W" and if you've seen that, you know how painful that was to sit through. I really wish that everyone would give all black movies this benefit of the doubt, but we only seem to do it with movies that are put together by others' portrayals of us. It's funny how we never seem to give so much lattitude to black filmmakers who know and respect their subjects, not those that rewrite history to "dramatize" reality to the point of making a gay man straight so a legend can pathetically throw herself at him. Please make sure to include those facts in future reviews rather than just focusing on Zoe not looking like Nina Simone. There are even bigger issues at play here.

  • Agent K | November 13, 2012 10:19 AM

    @Ugh What are you talking about?

  • Agent K | November 13, 2012 10:19 AM

    @Ugh What are you talking about?

  • Nadia | November 12, 2012 4:35 PM

    "I really wish that everyone would give all black movies this benefit of the doubt, but we only seem to do it with movies that are put together by others' portrayals of us. It's funny how we never seem to give so much lattitude to black filmmakers who know and respect their subjects." What're you talking about? Who's "we"? You must be new here. That said, I'm hoping the movie bombs!

  • andrea hood | November 12, 2012 4:29 PMReply

    I've considered #1.
    From what I have read, most people are clear that the anger and frustration is not and should not be directed towards Zoe Saldana as an actress of African Ancestry.

    What people are upset about are the DISREGARD of Nina's own daughter, Simone, writes about here http://www.ninasimone.com/2012/09/simone-responds-to-casting-of-zoe-saldana-in-biopic/

    As well as the disregard for OTHER actresses with the chops who may more closely resemble the High Priestess, without prosthesis!

    Most people, myself included are boycotting the film, thus, we hope that IT does not received the $$$$ box office reward/acclaim due to the fact that we do not respect the director's choice, NOT Zoe Saldana.

    If the film succeeds it will be because the director has corralled a team to make sure she does not look like an ultimate failure in the face of appropriate criticism, and she may even corral a few folks of color to speak on her behalf (but everyone is hip to that ol' smoke and mirrors game so she shouldn't even waste her time).

    Interesting that you'd write from this perspective.

    But yes, a full lack of support of this film at the box office is in order.

  • Nadia | November 12, 2012 4:38 PM

    I don't know Andrea. From all the comments on this site when it's been posted, and what I've read on Twitter, Facebook, from the start folks have been all upset about the Zoe casting. That's been #1 from jump.

  • Yogi | November 12, 2012 4:26 PMReply

    I'm hoping to be surprised!

  • ConfieLaverdad | November 22, 2012 4:48 PM

    I am perplexed by some of the commentary. Saldana as a "mixed race hispanic"? According to Nina's own biography her family lineage is African American/Native American - is that mixed-race enough?? What a silly category to use given the heritage of many of our best actors out here today. Should so-called "mixed-race" people be limited to "mixed-race" roles?

    I used to be something of a purist when it came to these portrayals, but Hollywood, and the film industry in general, has not been observant of our peculiar sensibilities and Jamie Foxx's portrayal of Ray Charles convinced me that sometimes my seemingly most reasonable doubts have been unwarranted. I've seen Denzel Washington do a weak Steve Biko featuring one of the worst attempts to adapt an accent to fit the role, and Morgan Freeman perform as poorly as Nelson Mandela. Both lighter skinned and darker skinned folks have taken to the screen to play Martin Luther King (Dick Anthony Williams; Paul Winfield; Jeffrey Wright, etc.) and we are hearing of possible projects with Lenny Kravitz or Terrence Howard as Marvin Gaye.

    I mean, at some point we are going to have to retire the paper bag tests and understand film the same way theater understands itself; as an opportunity for talented individuals to take on roles that demand the most of their training, talents and dedication to their craft, and that challenge them to make the audience suspend disbelief.

    We really have to ask ourselves, when we first saw Drumline, how many of us were saying or even recognized that she was this so-called "mixed-race hispanic' as opposed to another sister at a southern black college? As far as I'm concerned she is an Afro-descendant woman of Dominican heritage whose demonstrated her range in a number of big and small budget films.

    Not boycotting the film, looking forward to seeing and liking or disliking it depending upon the story, performance, and the skill of these involved in pulling this off.

Follow Shadow and Act

Email Updates

Most "Liked"

  • Now Taking Your Questions for S&A Column ...
  • "Many Documentary Films Have Been Shot ...
  • 2014 IFP Project Forum Slate Includes ...
  • Ahead of 'Finding Fela's' Release, Watch ...
  • Tessa ThompsonInterview: Tessa Thompson Talks Emotionally ...
  • Shemar Moore is Returning to 'The Young ...
  • A Trip Down Memory Lane w/ 1970s Actress ...
  • Watch Craig Robinson in First Trailer ...
  • Watch 'The Art of DE' by Adrien Sauvage ...
  • Watch Trailer For Short Film 'Roubado' ...