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Zoe Saldana/Nina Simone Bio-Pic Shopped To Distributors At Cannes Film Market As Director Files Lawsuit

by Sergio
May 15, 2014 12:42 AM
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So you remember that Nina Simone biopic that Zoe Saldana is starring in? The one that everyone was all up in arms about over her casting? Well, finally it’s going to see the light of day, this week, at the Cannes Film Market (Marche du Film), where it'll be screened for potential international distributors.

However, one person who almost certainly won’t be present, is the director of the film, Cynthia Mort, who is none-too-happy about developments regarding the production of the film, and she has now taken legal action.

In fact, according to The Hollywood Reporter (HERE), Mort filed a lawsuit this week, against the British producer of the film, Ealing Studios Enterprises Limited, claiming that the company effectively cut Mort out of the decision making process during production, and, as a result, she is not at all happy with the version which is about to be screened for distributors.

According to the lawsuit, Mort had rights over the developing picture and "got approval over the final shooting script, the cast and crew, the line producer, the designer and all department head as well as consulting rights on advertising, distribution, shooting schedule and budget."

However, as the suit further states, "throughout the course of the film's production and post-production, defendants consistently acted to frustrate Mort's involvement in the film, thereby breaching the Director Agreement. These breaches by the Defendants include, but are not limited to: taking complete control of editing the Film in June 2013 and failing to consult with Mort about subsequent cuts and changes; abandoning Mort's previous cuts of the Film; failing to disclose the Film's financials, finishing budget, and financing deals; and failing to keep Mort informed of other crucial creative and budgetary developments and decisions throughout production and post-production of the Film."

And further, apparently the film was supposed to have already been released, which obviously hasn't happened.

Mort is seeking monetary damages (the amount isn't public yet), as well as "a declaration that the defendants can't make decisions without her meaningful approval and consultation."

Metro International Entertainment - a UK-based independent sales agent - is repping the film at Cannes this week, and according to a tweet the company shared on Twitter a week ago, they are certainly excited about it:

In development for at least 5 years, Mary J. Blige was initially attached to star in the film, but she was eventually replaced by Saldana who brought more international box office gravitas to the production. 

The one constant actor throughout the ordeal is & David Oyelowo, who plays Simone's Paris-based manager Clifton Henderson

The film's official synopsis reads:

A rare and poignant love story about a tormented genius who eventually finds love and peace. The story of the late jazz musician and classical pianist Nina Simone including her rise to fame and relationship with her manager Clifton Henderson.

Mike Epps plays Richard Pryor in the film.

Of course the controversy over the casting of Saldana as Simone created a firestorm still prevalent today, 2 years later. But, finally, at last, the film will be seen for the first time by an audience, and no doubt, many will be more than curious to hear what the verdict is.

Stay tuned...

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  • derrick | June 26, 2014 7:55 AMReply

    Even Hispanic community leaders don't do squat for us. But Black community leaders help everyone. Wake up. The enemy used to be white people and while I don't trust them I trust them more than a Latino.

  • derrick | June 26, 2014 7:52 AMReply

    When will you get it through your thick ignorant skulls Black people? Hispanics don't like YOU but if you're dumb enough to help them achieve success they will tolerate YOU. There are latino illegal immigrants who look down on you. So stop trying to claim these ungrateful people. Haven't we done enough for them? From 80s Lisa-Lisa to Rosie Perez J-Lo Ancient Martinez Fat Joe Pit Bull Rocsi Sonia Sotomayor and Zoe Saldana we've made a lot of them rich and successful. And is the love reciprocated? Well tell me how many Latinos have helped a Black person.

  • derrick | June 26, 2014 7:23 AMReply

    This HISPANIC woman is so disrespectful. Her entire career until she exploded in Hollywood was portraying BLACK Women. From Guess who's coming into Ursula in Star Trek she's taken roles from Black women that are already hard enough to come by. Do you think Gabrielle Union would have been considered to play the lead in Columbiana? Do you think any Black woman could play a Latina? Jennifer Lopez just said she wants Serena Gomez to play her a fellow Latino. What do you think would happen if a Black actors portrayed one of them? They'd lose it. But not us. This quick to let you know she's a proud Dominican yet steals roles from Black women gets the go ahead from our sorry race.

  • hm | August 1, 2014 10:13 AM

    You are so stupid, she's BLACK AMERICAN AND LATINA. You can be all of them, she was born in U.S, her family are from Colombia, and she has (black) african blood (and she has a black skin tone) which makes her black. And you are being very smart, trying to argue against racism using racism against latinos (saying they are worse than white, wtf)

  • Chioma | June 23, 2014 10:18 PMReply

    I didn't mean she was a horrible actress, she is a great actress I did like some of her movies she was great on Avatar I saw that on FX.

  • Chioma | June 23, 2014 7:26 PMReply

    It's not about her mixed race of being an Afro-Latin women it's the fact that she has a fair complexion compared to Nina Simone. I guess today the media favors fair skinned African Americans, but now Lupita Nyong'o who is a Mexican/Kenyan she was born in Mexico to Keynan parents. Sometimes I wish and I am a Nigerian American woman but it saddens me that within Blacks/Africans, Afro-Latin and anyone mixed with African decent it is a problem if a woman has a dark complexion than one with a fair complexion I have a dark complexion, but my shade is not too dark. I am too disappointed that the role was given to her not because she is a horrible actress but her complexion why did they choose her why not another actress who has a darker complexion similar to Simone's. I hope she did not put make-up on to make her complexion "darker" Zoë's skin is beautiful as it is I want to think it's just me, but if she is then it's a slap to the face to her, because it is basically saying she was not "dark enough." It's wrong to tell a Black person of any African diaspora to say you are not "dark enough" or "black enough". I just want to know when this movie is out so I can watch it on TV the next year or two I don't go to the movies a lot.

  • Kjb | June 18, 2014 3:15 PMReply

    Asking most afro-latins what their race is and having them hesitate and say white has happen on numerous occasions, on my job where they are required to answer the question. My experience with this subject is that in countries around the world most people will choose any race to be associated with than to be considered black (African). their either mixed with something or consider themselves white, (I've experienced some dark skinned people refusing to express their race as black). If you've ever spent time talking to Dominicans their country is next door to Haiti but most are highly insulted if you mention their families having any family connections to Haiti. Now I see comments on here of people that are upset that the truth is being spoken regarding race. Like anything else, if it's convenient and for some sort of financial gain then being black is a proud statement but excepting all that goes along with it (the good and the bad) and really show and proving your pride is another. Most American blacks don't have a choice of being anything else but black (not Afro-Latin, not Black Brit, not African), or any other group and proud to have come so far as just being Black!

  • Miles Ellison | May 18, 2014 1:39 AMReply

    She looks like somebody spray painted her. This looks like it will be bad. Epically bad. Catastrophically bad. Legendarily bad. Comically bad. Disgracefully bad. Offensively bad.

  • Linden Williams | May 17, 2014 11:08 PMReply

    All this means is, a terrible movie just got worst. The casting of Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone is as ridiculous as casting Zoe Saldana as Eleanor Roosevelt. It was a stretch when they casted her as Lt. Uhura...

  • derrick | June 26, 2014 7:39 AM

    I said the same thing. Denise Nichols played the historical role as Lt. Uhura. Martin Luther king even told her he was proud to see her a Black woman on the small screen inspiring Black children. Then years later a Latina plays her. Disgusting. Gabrielle Union could have owned that role. Even on BETs 106 and park I see Latinos hosting and wondering would they hire a Black host on a show geared towards them?

  • Beemooree | May 17, 2014 10:07 PMReply

    Zoe is black but she's black when she's went to be. And before I get attacked yes I know you can be black and Latino. Ppl press her on it that she's forced to say she's black. She always claimed to be LatinA but didn't claim to be black until she blew up

  • Beyta | May 18, 2014 9:07 AM

    "She always claimed to be LatinA but didn't claim to be black until she blew up"

    she's a black latina girl, you can be both. Claiming her culture (latin) doesn't negate her race (black) and it's gross that americans want her to choose between the two. I wonder how they'd react if someone went to them and asked 'are you american or black?' or acted like they were denying their blackness only because they talk about their nationality and culture. Doesn't that sound STUPID?
    and she had said plenty that she'a black woman even to dominicans that tried to insist she's just dark skinned
    here's an interview from 2006, way before the whole Nina Simone mess

    “When I go to the D.R., the press in Santo Domingo always asks, “¿Qué te consideras, dominicana o americana?” (What do you consider yourself, Dominican or American?) I don’t understand it, and it’s the same people asking the same question. So I say, time and time again, “Yo soy una mujer negra.” (“I am a black woman.”) [They go,] “Oh, no, tú eres trigueñita.” (“Oh no, you are ‘dark skinned’”) I’m like, “No! Let’s get it straight, yo soy una mujer negra.” (“I am a black woman).”

    as for this thing about Nina Simone, wrong casting choice. More than wrong: it's just stupid. That said, I find it disingenuous for people to complain so much about Zoe Saldana and point fingers at her for 'blackface' and yet they have nothing to say about all the many other actors, including other poc, that played roles they absolutely didn't look like and they made their complexion darker.
    Kerry Washington and Forest Whitaker did a even worse and blatant 'blackface' when they played people they didn't look like in Last king of Scotland. If Zoe is insulting then what to say about the pictures below?
    I didn't even recognize Kerry!
    There is more talk about a woman of color playing another woc than there is about real whitewashing. You just know that when it comes to white actors being cast to play roles that are for poc, all the blame goes to TPTB but of course here you all gonna play the black latina girl.

  • Donella | May 17, 2014 12:22 PMReply

    This makeup job ranks up there with the black shoe polish finish on Forest Whittacker in The Last King of Scotland. You can see the polish gathering on his shirt collar when he's sweating.

    Lack of oversight.

  • Abe | May 16, 2014 10:39 PMReply

    Zoe Saldana is a terrible, terrible actress. This is gonna stink for sure.

  • Sperks | May 16, 2014 3:04 PMReply

    Such a disgrace and a huge insult to the legacy and memory of the legendary Nina Simone. So many other real artists who can actually sing (and act0 could have done this role with their eyes closed. Outrageous and Zoe Saldana should be ashamed of herself!

  • Mark & Darla | May 15, 2014 11:44 PMReply

    Who ever release that picture should be shot, her fingers are way lighter than her face and neck.

  • Mark and Darla | May 16, 2014 9:51 PM

    Charles my comment is about the lack of 'attention to detail', nothing to do with what you wrote.

  • Charles Judson | May 16, 2014 6:50 AM

    Nina's hands may have not being lighter, that doesn't mean folks in real life don't have lighter hands. Our skin tones can be just as varied on our bodies as they are between people. And I'm not talking about a skin disease or loss off pigment. If your point is that this doesn't represented Nina, cool. That should be said, not implied. We really need to stop judging blackness as if it can be easily codified, boxed and verified. Some of society's misconceptions of race are reinforced by us.

  • dave's deluxe | May 16, 2014 1:33 AM

    While your punishment is harsh, the assessment is correct: if this is the best a publicist could pull to excite folks about the movie......its .. not.. working

  • Random Commentary | May 15, 2014 9:37 PMReply

    How many music biopics went to actors instead of singers. I do recall Janet losing to Halle for the role of Dorothy Dandridge. Hollywood casts who's HOT at the moment not who's RIGHT for the part. I'm pretty sure when its time to cast the role for OBAMA a lot of eyes and heads will start rolling. Especially if they just give it Denzel and not look deeper. Of course Spike Lee will demand to direct. So start hedging your bets now who will play the role of OBAMA and who will direct. I nominate Dennis Haysbert and Spielberg. You get credibility on both fronts and a mid-range 9 digit box-office return. I guesstimate $640 million worldwide gross.

  • Zhana Roiya | May 15, 2014 12:06 PMReply

    I agree with the previous comments. It had flop written over it from day one. From the casting to not even giving people closely associated with her the time of day to add input of the timeline of events. Certainly it should be up there with comedy or farce. No black person would take this seriously. Zoe although talented is just all wrong to play the person that Nina Was. Someone from Britain would certainly not get an understanding of what the temperament in America was to be black in the 60's and 70's in America. And someone like Zoe is so far removed from identifying herself with being black unless there is money to be made by it that it would show up in her acting as being fake as her air brushed on Tan and Afro wig.

  • Stan Raffes | June 23, 2014 1:37 PM

    I totally agree with your comment. Nine Simone certainly wasn't conventionally pretty, and certainly not politically correct ( I'm 67; I saw Nina in person twice)She was enormously talented( maybe most the most talented) she was very passionate about the Civil Rights movement, equality, etc She was certainly one of the most talented jazz performers I ever saw in person She spoke openly about what she believed in. It is tragic she had a short career, and had go to exile, had terrible health and personal problems There are many fine actresses., jazz singers who should have been cast, who really embodied Nina looks and fierce spirit- not Zoe

  • Sperks | May 16, 2014 3:07 PM

    Having grown up in the same neighborhood with her and her sisters, you are 100% correct! Wasn't until a lil fame came her way that she acknowledged being 'afro latina', back in the day her and her sisters would want to cut you for even asking if they were Black!

  • Haven | May 15, 2014 1:58 PM

    "Zoe is so far removed from identifying herself with being black unless there is money to be made by it that it would show up in her acting as being fake as her air brushed on Tan and Afro wig."

    By far the most ignorant thing I've read today, and I just read a piece on men harassing a woman in a wheelchair because she's for gun control and McDonald's being the main sponsor for a Nutrition conference. You do realize that Zoe Saldana is Dominican right? She's Afro-latina. Never heard her deny her heritage, EVER. I doubt you're a close personal friend of hers so that statement is a matter of salty ass opinion. African-Americans don't own the "black" corner, so wtf do you exactly consider "being black" is? What exactly is "black struggle" to you? By all means elaborate on your narrow-minded and short-sighted world view of "blackness". Because obviously to you American black ppl went through so much more strife during the 60s and 70s than any other black person on the planet at the time.

  • me | May 15, 2014 1:12 PM

    "Someone from Britain would certainly not get an understanding of what the temperament in America was to be black in the 60's and 70's in America." really? Well that is rather a sweeping, and dare I say it ill-informed, narrow minded comment. As a Black Brit I think I have a pretty good understanding of the U.S. temperament at the time. I wonder if you can say the same about the temperament in Britain at the time. As to your points about Zoe, i'm broadly in agreement.

  • ohwell | May 15, 2014 12:01 PMReply

    SMDH at Cynthia Mort, she wrote a story that doesn't resemble Nina (and homophobic) one bit and she approved and defended the casting. Now she complains they didn't edit it like she wanted. Please stfu.

  • ArtLovah | May 15, 2014 11:32 AMReply

    Nina Simone put a spell on this sh*t. I mean, a force to reckoned with in life AND spirit. This film has flop written all over it and rightfully so.

  • ArtLovah | May 15, 2014 11:33 AM

    Oops meant, "a force to BE reckoned with..."

  • Gwhiz4 | May 15, 2014 10:02 AMReply

    Maybe I'm wrong, but this film has such a stench built up around it that there's no way it could possibly make money or be "successful".

  • May | May 15, 2014 8:30 AMReply

    I can not believe this movie is still going to be distributed! I lost all respect for Zoe saldana for this! Am just so shocked by this news. I really hope people boycott this movie, its just darn right disrespectful!

  • Reader 1 | May 15, 2014 2:08 AMReply

    Sounds like a last ditch effort to detach from a movie that's going to bomb.

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