Zoe Saldana’s Nina Simone Biopic, ‘Nina,’ Pushed Back To 2016

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Zoe Saldana’s Nina Simone Biopic, ‘Nina,’ Pushed Back To 2016
Posted by Wilson Morales

October 22, 2015

Blackfilm.com has learned that the Nina Simone biopic “Nina,” starring Zoe Saldana in the title role, has been pushed back for a 2016 release.

RLJ Entertainment, who acquired all North American rights to film, had initially planned to released it in theaters this December.

No date has been given at this time.

Nina film - David Oyelowo and Zoe Saldana

Directed and written by Cynthia Mort, NINA traces the career of legendary American singer-songwriter and civil rights activist, Nina Simone (Saldana). The story follows her struggle to balance music, family and what she believes in, which leaves her living alone in France feeling exiled from her own country. That is, until she meets Clifton Henderson (David Oyelowo) who helps the high priestess of soul rediscover meaning in her life and music, and to once again embrace America. NINA reflects both her and the people she gave voice to in both their search for redemption and hope in America during the 1960’s.

Mike Epps and Kevin Mambo

Also cast in the film are Mike Epps as Richard Pryor in a supporting role and Broadway actor Kevin Mambo as Gille, a French guitarist and a member of Simone’s band. Pryor opened for the singer when they two were starting out in the early 1960s. Pryor had terrible stage fright and Simone, in her autobiography, recalled how she regularly rocked him into calmness.

NINA was produced by Barnaby Thompson (The Importance of Being Earnest), Ben Latham-Jones (Kids in Love), Stuart Parr (Get Rich or Die Tryin’) and Cynthia Mort (The Brave One) and executive produced by Pierre Lagrange (Kick-Ass), Allison Sarofim (Lake City), Aigerim Jakisheva (Kids in Love), Zoe Saldana, David Oyelowo, James Spring (Burke and Hare), Gene Kirkwood (Rocky), Lauren Lloyd (Cellular) and Paul Rosenberg (Southpaw).

The film is the latest of musical biopics that will be shown in 2016. Last week, Sony Pictures Classics announced that Tom Hiddleston‘s portrayal of country legend Hank Williams in “I Saw The Light” will now open on March 25th, 2016 instead on this coming November. The same studio will also release Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis film “Miles Ahead” in April 2016. IFC Films hasn’t announced a release date for “Born to be Blue,” a biopic on jazz singer Chet Baker and starring Ethan Hawke.

In a 2014 issue of Monarch Magazine, Ms. Saldana addresses the issues that has raised questions on her casting.

Here are some highlights regarding the Nina Simone film:

Playing the late, great Nina Simone, what inspired you to do a project like this?

Zoe Saldana NinaZoe Saldana: Nina was a true genius and an iconic artist. It was a dream job for me. It’s one of the scariest projects I’ve ever been involved with because it was about an iconic figure, and there were so many political [issues] around it from the beginning; but I really wanted it to be a love song to Nina Simone and I wanted it to just come from a place of absolute love. I loved the complexity of Nina and her beauty that she expressed with her music. I wanted to do right by her and knew it would be challenging. I feel so blessed to have such an amazing opportunity to play a true legend.

How did you prepare for the role?

ZS: I did a lot of research to prepare for Nina. I took piano lessons, voice lessons, worked with a dialect coach, and I really invested months of just doing research about Nina – her background, her story, her life. My research ranged from reading books about Nina, listening to her music, watching footage of her.

How did the controversy about you playing Nina affect you?

Zoe Saldana as Nina SimoneZS: The Nina Simone story needed to be told, and I’m really blessed that I did it. I’m human. I wish I was made of steel and so certain things wouldn’t affect me. So it did affect me but I couldn’t let that deter me from doing what I needed to do. Just like everybody else I feel very strongly about Nina Simone, and that [this] was a story that needed to be told. I do believe that if everybody had more information about how this all came to be, it might help; but then again, I’m not here to get the acceptance of everyone – I’m here to be an artist first. Hopefully people will enjoy the film and I helped shed some light on this amazing iconic.

Do you feel like your heritage and ethnicity is always questioned?

Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone 4aZS: I find it uncomfortable to have to speak about my identity all of the time, when in reality it’s not something that drives me or wakes me up out of bed every day. I didn’t grow up in a household where I was categorized by my mother. I was just Zoe and I could have and be anything that I ever wanted to do … and every human being is the same as you. So to all of a sudden leave your household and have people always ask you, “What are you? What are you?” is the most uncomfortable question sometimes and it’s literally the most repetitive question. Because I can’t wait to be in a world where people are sized by their soul and how much they can contribute as individuals and not what they look like … I feel like as a race, that’s a minute problem against the problems we face just as women versus men, in a world that’s more geared and designed to cater towards the male species.

The full interview can be read here.


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