Written by | Ray Cornelius
THE WAIT IS OVER!
The highly anticipated Tupac Shakur biopic, “All Eyez on Me” opens nationwide in theaters today and fans will finally get to see what all the hype is about!
The two hour and twenty minute film stars newcomer Demetrius Shipp Jr. as the iconic rapper and chronicles his life from his early days as a dancer and “hype man” of Digital Underground to his meteoric rise as a rap star and actor to becoming an artist of Suge Knight’s Death Row Records. This film is a “must see” for real Tupac fans and takes a definitive look at his amazing 25 years on this planet. It also includes appearances by the lovely Kat Graham as Tupac’s close friend and confident Jada Pinkett Smith and Jamal Woolard reprises his role as Tupac’s friend turned foe Biggie Smalls. The film was produced by L.T. Hutton and directed by Benny Boom.
RC had the pleasure of chatting with Hutton and his cast last week during a private press conference in Atlanta promoting the film. I also got a chance to interview the film’s casting directors Winsome Sinclair and Donald Jarmond for my Saturday radio show, UPFRONT Inside Atlanta’s Entertainment Industry.
Check out a few excerpts from those interviews + more pics below:
On Jada Pinkett Smith’s support of the film:
“She’s given her blessing and she’s watched some clips. She’s incredibly supportive which means the world to me because I’m a big Jada fan and I’ve always been. A lot of people are surprised that she and Pac [Tupac] were friends growing up. Having her support for such a sacred relationship on screen in such a big way is a blessing. She’s a remarkable woman and we wanted to do her justice.”
On preparing to play Jada Pinkett Smith:
“I did a lot of research. Once I realized that I was going to play her I wanted to watch every single interview, every single movie or whatever I could get my hands on. I wanted photos of her as a child as a teenager or with Pac. Any videos or anywhere that she spoke about him or anything that would help me distinguish certain characteristics that I wanted to portray. It was important that it was more about embodying who she was versus making it an imitation. That’s not what I wanted to do and I don’t think that you guys would have connected with that either.”
DEMETRIUS SHIPP JR.
On staying in character throughout the entire filming process:
“The funny thing is that if you asked me that back then I would have said, ‘no.’ I was still myself but when I got home and I looked back over some behind-the-scenes video, I was in character the whole time. (LOL) From the time I touched down in Atlanta on November 30 to the time I left, I was in character.”
Despite the beef that is going on between L.T. Hutton and the film’s former producer, John Singleton, he did want fans to know that this film project is about Tupac’s life and not their own agendas. He also expressed to us how critical that films of this ilk are to the success of other future Black projects.
“It’s very few movies that we have that have a Black producer on it all the time. To have a Black director and then to have an almost all Black cast of an iconic figure, this movie is to be celebrated….not to get caught up and entangled in drama. It’s not about me. It’s not about him. It’s not about Benny Boom. It’s not about my company. It’s about Tupac and if you guys saw the movie, you’ll see that’s Tupac,” said Hutton during the press conference. “That’s what they want us to do is have a scenerio where Hollywood can say, ‘if Tupac didn’t work then nothing will work.’ So now everybody that’s an aspiring filmmaker or aspiring actress, now the pond gets even smaller than it already is. It’s 2017 and we’re still talking about the first Black this or that. We get excited over the little bones they throw us. ”
WINSOME SINCLAIR AND DONALD JARMOND
On Demetrius Shipp Jr. being chosen for the role:
“L.T. saw him before anyone did and the truth about Demetrius’ journey is that Demetrius’ father was the engineer in Tupac’s recording sessions. So it’s kinda like full circle, almost like he was born for this role,” said Sinclair during our UPFRONT interview. “L.T. also tells the story of when they finally made a decision to go with Demetrius and took him to meet Afene. She was getting up in age and thought Pac had walked in the room. So that was like the final sanction…yeah that was him!”
“All Eyez on Me” in theaters this weekend.
Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com