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Zoe Saldana Apparently Did All Her Own Singing For Nina Simone Movie...

by Tambay A. Obenson
February 8, 2013 2:10 PM
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Sifting through my newsfeed as I do daily, I came across this piece of exlusive news on E! Online, that I obviously thought was worth sharing. Chatting with co-star David Oyelowo a few days ago (he plays Clifton Henderson in the film), here's the segment:

Zoe Saldana has done sci-fi, action, suspense and comedy. And now she's ready to show off her pipes. The Star Trek actress recently filmed Nina, based on the life of jazz musician Nina Simone, and Saldana did all her own singing. "She did!" costar David Oyelowo confirmed to us. "Whether that will be the case of the movie, I don't know, but she was there, she learned all those songs, she got Nina down. She was incredible…I think she is going to really surprise people with her performance in that film."

What I take from all that is, Zoe did learn all of Nina Simone's songs (at least, those that might be used in the film) and she performed them as well, doing all her own singing. But, Oyelowo doesn't seem entirely certain that the sequences in which Zoe sings will end up in the completed film. That's how that reads to me anyway.

Digging through the S&A archives, skimming through Vanessa's review of a 2011 draft of the script (meaning, the draft of the script that was shot, may have changed), Vanessa mentions that there are a number of scenes in which Nina (Zoe) performs, which she said were the film's highlights. I think we just assumed that she'd be lip-synching; although there was also the question of rights to Nina Simone's music, given that the late singer/activist's estate isn't exactly supportive of the project.

But it looks like director Cynthia Mort has the music she needs, based on this August, 2012 interview with Entertainment Weekly, in which she states:

“Getting the song rights is complicated... With an artist like Nina, it’s scattered. We have secured the rights to a number of songs. We’ve also been in contact with Al Schackman, who was Nina’s guitarist. He’s incredibly supportive of the movie.”

So, as noted, she obviously has rights to some of Nina's songs, because apparently the estate likely doesn't own all of the rights to her music. I can say that, from all the biopics of musicians we've covered, this issue of "scattered rights" seems to be common. As and she said, she also has Nina's guitarist on her side on this.

That takes care of any music rights issues, which I don't think we ever really addressed here, since much of the debate around the film was centered on Zoe's casting as Nina, which Oyelowo addresses in that same E! Online chat, stating:

"You're never going to please everyone. I know what Zoe did in that movie, I know the kind of film we've made and the spirit that went into it and just hope that the people who appreciate the hard work we've put in will come and see the movie."

I don't think I've ever heard Zoe Saldana sing (I'd like to listen if anyone has any links), but apparently, she can, based on all of the above; so we'll see. But I'm sure this will add even more fuel to the already unwieldy fire.

The film is scheduled to debut sometime this year, and, last I checked, it's in post-production, so it's only a matter of time before we get our first official look (via a trailer) at what I predict will be one of the most talked about films of 2013. Controversy sells! 

Mike Epps as Richard Pryor, and Ella Thomas as Lorraine Hansberry, round out the starring cast.

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More: Zoe Saldana, David Oyelowo

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  • Jas | September 29, 2013 12:35 AMReply

    ...Zoe....damned auto correct!

  • Jas | September 29, 2013 12:34 AMReply

    Zorn sang for a few seconds in Guess Who with Ashton Kutcher. Sounded great...beautiful voice.

  • Victoria | February 11, 2013 5:33 PMReply

    Isnt the whole point of acting is that you act. I.e. pretend to be something that you are not and convince people that you are.

    Hold your horses :) For the record, I preferred Adepero or even Mary J

  • urbanauteur | February 11, 2013 12:36 PMReply

    Hum....?.... this should be called:Intimation of Strife; as told thru the eyes of Laura Mars....

  • Loretta Devine Sweetheart | February 9, 2013 5:12 AMReply

    This has flop written all over it

  • audiodramatist | February 9, 2013 4:42 AMReply

    Casting notwithstanding; i am more interested in the fact that the Lorraine Hansberry character is listed as the second character of the film. This means to me that the film will focus on the time period of the early 60's when radical political thought was priming the pump for the more militant actions of the late 60's.
    And another question...Why is there a Richard Pryor, but no James Baldwin character?

    On another tip: I've always wanted to see feature films on Hansberry, Adam Clayton Powell, jr, Stokely Carmichael (aka Kwame Ture), and Ella Josephine Baker.
    Maybe i should have chosen another career path; one that would have garnered me enough contacts, money and influence to fund films more compatible to me and my people(s) sensibilities.

  • ALM | February 9, 2013 9:14 AM

    @ Audiodramatist: No matter your age, it's never too late to change career paths. Maybe you'll win the lottery and be able to begin funding the type of projects you mention here.

  • ALM | February 8, 2013 9:55 PMReply

    "Whether that will be the case of the movie, I don't know, but she was there, she learned all those songs, she got Nina down."<<< This statement speaks volumes. It sounds like there is already uncertainty as to whether Zoe's actual vocals will actually make the film, which poses a huge question/huge amount of doubt about her singing capability. If an actor/actress is a strong (or even a decent) singer, the directors do not hesitate to allow them to sing on film.

  • Joia | February 8, 2013 8:19 PMReply

    Ms. Simone's family should sue to put a stop to this fiasco. They have gone out of their way to deface the image of Ms. Simone. Nina Simone was a beautiful, classy and regal woman. Yet, because she was educated and sophisticated enough to love herself enough to be herself, loving her own God given hair, ethnicity and beauty, this movie apparently has decided to deface that imagery to deliberately make her character portrayal look as homely as possible. What an insult. I agree, the beautiful Lauren Hill would have been a wonderful choice to play this part.
    And, I feel she could better interpret the complexities of being an African centered black woman.

  • Miles Ellison | February 8, 2013 8:17 PMReply

    She also did her own acting, which is even more unfortunate.

  • Rayne | February 11, 2013 1:10 AM

    Blah blah blahhhhh....Do your thing, Zoe!

  • Ava | February 8, 2013 8:06 PMReply

    Well, hell, Lauryn Hill would've done her own singing as well! Although, I doubt Lauryn would've gone near this script (lol). People may say Lauryn is crazy, but I doubt she could ever be that crazy.

  • lauren | February 8, 2013 11:11 PM

    Why not?! Dayum! The I the R and the S were on my poor ass for pennies compared to her!

  • ALM | February 8, 2013 9:56 PM

    @ Lauren: Lauryn Hill isn't in jail.

  • Lauren | February 8, 2013 8:51 PM

    Isn't Lauren Hill in jail? I'm good friends with crew member on Nina who always dishes everything- good or bad, about whatever films she's working on and she said Zoe did a good job singing in the film. DON'T kill the messenger! I'm just passing info on here. Bottom line is no matter how good her acting and singing might or might not be; haters gonna' hate... they don't do anything else.

  • LVFLG | February 8, 2013 7:11 PMReply

    one good outcome: the curious and will want to find out WHO this woman was - by buying her records, checking out her videos...I'm sure there will be a groundswell of interest in the real Nina. Because what passes for singing these days is sadly a joke!

  • ALM | February 8, 2013 9:58 PM

    Yes. Very few people actually know her catalog. People think Buble' (I am a very big Buble' fan also) originated "Feeling Good". There are a lot of songs that she made special but other singers get credit for.

  • Faith | February 8, 2013 3:05 PMReply

    Correction needed. Watch "The Legend" on Youtube and hit the 3:55mark on the Part 3 of 6 segment. As I stated, she was a true WARRIOR.

  • Faith | February 8, 2013 3:02 PMReply

    I don't think Zoe can pull this off...and I'm a Zoe fan. When you look at ALL the footage of Nina, you realize she's a complex, authentic character. Check her out in this doc called "The Legend" on YouTube (especially part 2) and hit the 3:55 mark. She was a truly amazing woman, a real WARRIOR.

  • Bee | February 8, 2013 2:56 PMReply

    This film is going to be a hot fucking mess. Smh.

  • BluTopaz | February 8, 2013 3:02 PM

    This flick will create a new category at the Razzie Awards.

  • Lvflg | February 8, 2013 2:47 PMReply

    want to get to know who Nina Simone really was/is - just visit - google nina simone
    you will be taken to a special site that has archived performances of the real Nina. It's there for all to see, in perpetuity!

  • Juicy Lucy | February 8, 2013 4:10 PM

    Or head straight to the bargain DVD bin at Wal Mart

  • jenn | February 8, 2013 2:45 PMReply

    It looks like she did her own make-up, too.

  • lilkunta | February 11, 2013 6:02 PM

    no one should shop walmart.

  • monkeysuit | February 8, 2013 6:35 PM


  • Kendall | February 8, 2013 2:36 PMReply

    Yeah I was gonna reference Crossroads, too. Here's the link:

  • Sweeta | February 9, 2013 5:17 PM

    Did they spend the entire film singing in the car?? woww

  • ADawn | February 8, 2013 2:26 PMReply

    Except for the little bit she did in the abomination known as "Crossroads," I don't think she's ever sung on film.

  • Bama | February 8, 2013 2:21 PMReply

    Oh lord.

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