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'American Idol' Winner & Grammy Nominee Fantasia To Star In Mahalia Jackson Biopic

by Kevin Jagernauth
February 9, 2011 3:25 AM
4 Comments
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Back when "American Idol" was still a novelty on these shores (and before the switcheroo of judging panel which now includes Steven Tyler for some reason), Fantasia (aka Fantasia Barrino on her driver's license) was easily one of the biggest sensations the show ever had. Her performances of "Summertime" and "Porgy & Bess" on the program drew raves, and at the age of nineteen, she became the youngest winner the show ever had at the time (17 year-old Jordin Sparks would later break that record). The success on the program vaulted her career leading to five Grammy nominations to date as well as starring role in the Broadway incarnation of "The Color Purple." And now, Fantasia looks to be making another big career leap.

THR reports that the singer has signed on to play Mahalia Jackson in a forthcoming biopic based on the 1993 book "Got to Tell It: Mahalia Jackson, Queen of Gospel." Jackson was one of the most iconic gospel singers of all time, earning the moniker "The Queen Of Gospel" and selling a dozen gold records throughout her career. She became the first gospel singer to perform at Carnegie Hall, was an early supporter of Martin Luther King Jr. and sang "How I Got Over" and "I've Been 'Buked, and I've Been Scorned" at the March On Washington, and "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" at his funeral. In short, she was a legend, a larger-than-life figure and one of the finest singers -- gospel or otherwise -- in music history. She was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1997. To cinephiles, she's probably best remembered as a church choir soloist in Douglas Sirk's wonderful 1959 melodrama, "Imitation Of Life," who sings (and brings the house down) in the film's emotional climax (you can see that scene below).

The film is set to be directed by Euzhan Palcy ("A Dry White Season") and has a script by TV writer Jim Evering ("Major Dad," "Mama's Family"). Production is moving fast with lensing to start in April and a December release being eyed. While we're not quite sold on the talent assembled here, Jackson's story is certainly inspiring and undoubtedly Fantasia can easily nail the musical requirements of the role. As for the dramatic elements, we'll have to wait and see.

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4 Comments

  • jasmin | September 23, 2011 6:01 AMReply

    Have a little faith. Fantasia will do a fine job. She is very very talented. I think Ms. Jackson would be more concerned that the role has some redemptive value. Those who sit in such harsh judgment of this young woman miss the point of Ms. Jackson's life and ministry. I support Ms Barrino and pray God continues to bless her career and her life. In many respects her downfall may be her time in space--the internet broadcasts her every mishap a nanosecond after it occurs and then she is subjected to endless armchair analysis by folks who clearly have too much time on their hands. Hopefully she will figure out how to ignore it all and spend time processing how life is happening to her so she can course correct. I thank God I never had to read, along with the rest of the world, all of my most personal situations; and then be forced to defend myself when I should be deciphering what went wrong so that I could get back on track. Give her a break. You are going to see the movie anyway?? Well just wish her well. There's a blessing in that for you...

  • S. E. Douglas | February 20, 2011 10:37 AMReply

    I am literally nauseous reading that the GREAT MAHALIA will be played by Fantasia. Totally revolting that this person the public no longer has respect for would be picked for the lead in this movie. Do you even want this to be successful? There are soooo many better choices that would make this project a mind blowing success. Please find someone with some morals if you public support and want this movie to make money. If you picked her because you got her cheaper..... well, you get back what you put into it. Get a clue.

  • Larry | February 11, 2011 2:05 AMReply

    Man Queen Latifah fits this role perfectly, put them side by side, I will watch because I grew up listening to Mahalia.

  • Ellis | February 10, 2011 3:44 AMReply

    In my honest opinion, I have nothing against Fantasia. She is very talented and showed millions she can overcome challenges. I have a bitter taste in my mouth because I don't believe she is ready for this role to play Mahalia Jackson.

    Such a powerful name, Mahalia Jackson...the world's greatest gospel singer. Sung gospel all her life and the first gospel singer to perform at Carnegie Hall in 1950 a honor in its self. Fantasia crosses over from Gospel to R&B music all the time. People that sing Gospel looks as singing as a ministry, to minister to someone that may be going through something. R&B to me is about absolutely nothing. For someone who carried the torch for gospel music, civil rights I feel It has to be someone more fitting for the role. Not someone who constantly goes from the Church to the world and trade saliva with another R&B star on stage.

    I don't care if it's acting, but I feel it would be a slap in the face to Mahalia to let someone play her part with such character. I feel this should be someone else in place of Fantasia play such great role. I can see resemblance somewhat as far as face structure but nowhere close. I will still watch movie in Mahalia's honor, but no glory to Fantasia.

    Just wonder what stunt Fantasia will do next to make me shake my head.

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