Musical biopics have long been a standard and this year is no different with various legends like Hank Williams and Miles Davis have big screen treatments to look forward to this in the near future. Add another to the growing list as RLJ Entertainment announced Thursday their acquisition of Nina, a bio of Nina Simone starring Zoe Saldana (Avatar). Furthermore, the RLJ is planning a December release date- perhaps hoping to capitalize on an awards run for the title.
Nina has been a long gestating title and a bit of a controversial one at that since the project was announced some time ago. The brunt of the early criticism was sparked by the casting of the light-skinned Saldana as the singer-songwriting great. The film was also, at one point, denounced by surviving members of Simone’s family (particularly her daughter) for not including them in the process. Simone was also the subject of the well received Netflix documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? which opened the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and opened this past summer.
The film marks the directorial debut of Cynthia Mort (writer/producer of the HBO series Tell Me You Love Me), who also wrote the screenplay. Nina explores the influential career and the personal life of the singer and civil rights activist. David Oyelowo (Selma) co-stars as Simone’s manager Clifton Henderson. Saldana and Oyelowo also both serve as producers of the film. Mike Epps (Bessie) and Ella Joyce (Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor) co-star.
“I am very excited that RLJ Entertainment will be distributing Nina Simone’s biopic with the tremendous talent involved including Zoe Saldana and David Oyelowo,” Robert L. Johnson, Chairman of RLJ Entertainment said, “I had the special privilege early in my career of working with Ms. Simone while coordinating a performance for former D.C. Delegate Walter E. Fauntroy and knowing first-hand of her major contribution to the soul and emotion of the Civil Rights Movement. I look forward as I am sure many others will, to her story and legacy being made available by RLJ Entertainment to consumers on various media platforms in the coming months.”