It has nearly been twenty years(!) since the death of rapper/actor/poet/artist/icon Tupac Shakur, which is why it seems so shocking that no one in Hollywood has successfully
exploited adapted the late star's life story into a major motion picture. Tupac's contemporary The Notorious B.I.G. was gunned down a year after Shakur - and yet his life has already been immortalized in the 2009 film, Notorious. So what's the hold up with 'Pac's story?
Well, after many years of starts, stops, estate battles and the like, it is now official: The Tupac biopic is indeed moving ahead, With Morgan Creek Productions financially backing Emet/Furla/Oasis Films (2 Guns, Escape Plan) in order to bring the project to fruition.
Deadline dropped the initial news, which was then quickly corroborated by an official press release from Morgan Creek. Last we heard, untested screenwriter Michael Starrbury was brought in to re-work a script by Oscar-nominated duo Stephen J. Rivele and Chris Wilkinson; however, reports now state that the film is being scripted by Eddie Gonzalez and Jeremy Haft (Street Kings 2), and a draft is expected to be completed by mid-October.
Production is being slated for a February 2014 start date; the filmmakers have access to Tupac's music catalog and the late star's mother, Afeni Shakur, will produce the film, much the same way that Voletta Wallace (mother of B.I.G.) produced Notorious. Fitting eulogies, if ever there were any. The production budget for the Tupac movie will be set at $45 million - which is pretty solid, given the current state of the movie business. Clearly this film will have a built-in audience it attracts; but with no word yet on a director, the question of creating a Tupac film that has mainstream appeal is still a lingering challenge.
...And then there's the bigger challenge (no pun) (no double pun!) of casting the film. Tupac remains as difficult as ever to cast (established star? Relative unknown?); actor Michael B. Jordan had breakouts with Chronicle and Fruitvale Station and has since become that one young black actor du jour that everyone nominates for applicable leading role (or, you know, as a black Johnny Storm in a Fantastic Four reboot) - which is probably why Deadline writer Mike Fleming Jr. can "see a guy" like him in the part. Of course, there are plenty of other young black male actors - discovered or not - that could handle the part, so we'll see what shakes out.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of other famous celebrities and icons who were involved with Tupac's life, who would also need to be cast for the film. Assuming the movie covers something of 'Pac's parents' time as members of the Black Panther Movement, those roles would need to be cast; as a teen Tupac attended the Baltimore School for the Arts, where he met future lifelong friend Jada Pinkett, so someone would need to play a version of her; then there is the long list of musical artists 'Pac rubbed elbows with, including Digital Underground ("The Humpty Dance"), Notorious B.I.G., and fellow Death Row Records label mates and associates like Suge Knight, Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre - all of whom will be controversial in terms of "proper" casting.
Who do YOU want to see play Tupac - an unknown or a familiar face? Let us know in the comments.
The Tupac biopic will start shooting in early 2014. We'll keep you updated on release date info.
Sources: MCP & Deadline