By Randall Rydell Russell
Something is happening in Hollywood that is spreading like a wildflower. All over the industry, studios are picking up hot commodities based off some of our favorite singers and rappers. What started with CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story hitting TV audiences in late 2013 as what many thought was just another way to make money off a name, turned in 4.5 million viewers on it’s first night, making it the highest rated television film to ever premiere on VH-1. Let’s go back and see how this all began.
Lady Sings the Blues was released in 1972 and was about the life of Billie Holliday and featured Diana Ross in the role. Bird was released in 1988, and was about influential jazz musician Charlie Parker played to a tee by Forest Whitaker. The Jacksons: An American Dream was released to TV in 1992 which portrayed the rise of the Jackson family from their start in Indiana to superstardom through Motown. Angela Basset and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs played Katharine and Joe Jackson, and a young Terrence Howard and Jason Weaver playing Jackie Jackson and Michael Jackson at various ages. A more popular film was What’s Love Got To Do With It which was released in 1993, portrayed the turbulent life of Tina and Ike Turner brilliantly portrayed by Angela Basset and Laurence Fishburne. The Temptations was released in 1998, and featured Leon and DB Woodside. Hendrix was released in 2000 on cable television, with Wood Harris playing classic rocker Jimi Hendrix. Little Richard was released in 2000 as well, and this featured Leon in the title role. One of the more popular biopics of recent memory, is Ray. Jamie Foxx starred in the role of Ray Charles. The role gained him an Academy Award for Best Actor. Notrious was released in 2009 and was about rapper Notrious B.I.G. and played by Jamal Woolard. Cadillac Records was released in 2008 and starred Beyonce Knowles as Etta James.
Studios also have movies about James Brown, titled Get On Up being released this year, with Chadwick Boseman in the lead role. A Whitney Houston movie with Yaya DaCosta in the role is also in production. As well as a film about Aaliyah which is rumored to be in hiatus due to the family of Aaliyah not happy with how they are handling the story of their daughter. A biopic about Tupac is also in the works. Straight Outta Compton, a film about rap group N.W.A.is also in the works with F. Gary Gray directing, and Ice Cube’s son playing his father in the film. Last is Miles Ahead a movie about Miles Davis with Don Cheadle in the role.
Biopics seem to be the next big thing in the entertainment industry. They either do great or fail horribly. Do any of these new films have a chance? Do these movies have audience appeal to keep the investors and studio heads happy? Stay tuned.