Let me first make it clear that I'm not being disparaging, or *hating* on the man and/or his abilities… consider this more of an inquiry.
Based on your comments here, as well as on Facebook and Twitter, and also the number of *likes* the post announcing the news has received in the last 24 hours since I posted it yesterday, it's safe to say that most of you are excited about André Benjamin starring as Jimi Hendrix in a film based on the late legend's life.
I, on the otherhand, don't necessarly share your enthusiasm for the project – particularly the actor chosen to play the title role; and I'm hoping that you all who are apparently sold on André Benjamin as Jimi Hendrix can convince me that he IS indeed the man for the part.
In short, as I see it, looking over his IMDB resume, I've seen 3 of his performances – in Idlewild, Four Brothers, and Be Cool – and there's really nothing about any of them that's enough to make me feel less ambivalent about his ability to successfully embody Jimi Hendrix on film.
So I ask you, what am I missing here? What am I just not seeing that many of you apparently are?
And to answer a question that I'm sure you will ask me – who I think should play the part – as I've said many times in the past regarding films based on real-life figures (dead of alive), my first choice in actors to play those roles would go to unknown actors/actresses. They tend to come with less baggage, because I think it's much easier for the audience to see past the actor playing the part (especially if they're good at what they do), and instead see the character they're portraying. With faces we're already familiar with, that familiarity can be distracting – unless the actor is able to completely disappear into the performance, so much that we forget that they are performing, and we only see the character they're playing; something that I think is rare when it comes to biopics. It takes a really strong actor to pull off that kind of a performance.
So this project actually worries me more than it excites me to be frank. It's not like biopics on black public figures are being financed and produced regularly; and here we have a wonderful opportunity to realize the life (a few years of it anyway) of Jimi Hendrix's short time on this planet, on film, and all I want is to ensure that it's an opportunity that's fully taken advantage of, and that the audience gets the best possible film.
It's not an opportunity that will come around again any time soon, if ever. So the pressure is certainly on, and I'm sure Mr Benjamin realizes that – at least I hope so. I know he's been wanting to make this film for a long time now, and that alone (his passion for it) is certainly encouraging. I'm just not too sure he's the man for the job.
He could certainly completely surprise me with his performance. And if that happens, I'll bow to the alter that is Andre Benjamin as Jimi Hendrix. But until then, all I have to go on is his past work, and I just can't say that any of it makes me less ambivalent about this particular project.
So, once again, I'd like to know what you all are seeing that I'm just not; what am I missing here? Is it just his look, or is there more (don't forget that he actually has to ACT in this; it's not just going to be a series of scenes with Benjamin plucking at guitar strings with a headband around his head). The film will follow Hendrix’s years in England, from 1966 to 1967, as he put together his debut album,
Why should I be excited about this project, other than the fact that it's being made finally?