null“Aaliyah’s personal and professional relationship with R. Kelly will be explored with care in the film as we set out to depict her life with the utmost respect. Above all else, it’s our hope to inspire an entirely new generation with her music and larger-than-life talent.”

The above words come from Executive producer Debra Martin Chase, speaking to the New York Post in a piece published yesterday. This comes on the heels of the June 16th announcement that recording artist Zendaya will portray Aaliyah in the Lifetime Original Movie about the life of the actress and R&B sensation who, at the height of her stardom, tragically died in a plane crash.

The next obvious question is: who will play R. Kelly? Chime in with your thoughts in the comment section below.

The two singers were allegedly married in 1994, when Aaliyah would’ve been only 15 years old to R. Kelly’s 27. Although they denied it, a marriage certificate later  surfaced, with her age falsely listed as 18 (her parents were later said to have annulled the marriage).  

Based on the bestseller "Aaliyah: More Than a Woman" by former Time Magazine music editor Christopher Farley, the Lifetime Original Movie will be titled "Aaliyah: Princess of R&B" (although it’s a working title), the first movie about the beloved artist, and will be filmed this summer to premiere in the Fall.

Quite a fast turnaround!

Here’s Lifetime’s official synopsis for the film from the press release I received:

Before Beyonce and before Rihanna, self-proclaimed “street but sweet” Aaliyah was poised to become a global icon with top-selling albums, a hot movie career and an adoring fan base. But behind the spotlight, Brooklyn-born, Detroit-raised Aaliyah Dana Haughton struggled to succeed in a tough business while staying grounded in the midst of her growing celebrity. The film follows the beautiful and talented performer’s inspirational journey, from her debut on "Star Search" at the age of ten to the challenges she faced during her rise to become the Princess of R&B. On August 25, 2001, at the height of her popularity, her life was tragically cut short when a plane carrying the singer and some of her video crew crashed after takeoff from a Bahamian runway. Although just 22-years-old at the time of her death, Aaliyah continues to lead a legacy as Billboard’s tenth most famous R&B artist of the past 25 years and one of the recording industry’s most successful artists in history.

Platinum-selling artist Zendaya will record four of Aaliyah’s songs for the film, including many of her hit singles.

By the way, also of note, Aaliyah’s family reportedly doesn’t support the film and is said to be attempting to block its making. 

"Aaliyah was more than a singer, she was – and is still – an American music icon whose legacy continues to live on and influence today’s music culture, just as Ray Charles, Notorious B.I.G., Selena and Johnny Cash," the family said in a statement, adding, "Considering the magnitude of her fans’ affection alone, she deserves to have a tribute much more grand than a television network debut that won’t even consider the perspectives of those who were closest to Aaliyah. Disregarding the families and dishonoring the legacies of celebrated figures who have passed on, big networks want to exploit their stories for a buck. We’re here to make it clear that it’s not okay!"

This project comes shortly after Yaya DaCosta Alafia was cast to play Whitney Houston in another Lifetime biopic – that one to be directed by Angela Bassett, her directorial debut. Clearly Lifetime hopes to rip some ratings and profits from biopics on the lives of black musicians.

I should also note VH1’s TLC biopic, which was a hit for that network when it premiered last fall.

"Aaliyah:Princess of R&B" will be produced by Aaliyah Productions, Inc. Howard Braunstein ("The Informant!") and Debra Martin Chase ("The Princess Diaries," "Sparkle") will serve as executive producers.  

Bradley Walsh ("Turn the Beat Around") will direct from a script written by Michael Elliot ("Brown Sugar").