Sifting through my newsfeed as I do daily, I came across this piece of exlusive news on E! Online, that I obviously thought was worth sharing. Chatting with co-star David Oyelowo a few days ago (he plays Clifton Henderson in the film), here's the segment:
Zoe Saldana has done sci-fi, action, suspense and comedy. And now she's ready to show off her pipes. The Star Trek actress recently filmed Nina, based on the life of jazz musician Nina Simone, and Saldana did all her own singing. "She did!" costar David Oyelowo confirmed to us. "Whether that will be the case of the movie, I don't know, but she was there, she learned all those songs, she got Nina down. She was incredible…I think she is going to really surprise people with her performance in that film."
What I take from all that is, Zoe did learn all of Nina Simone's songs (at least, those that might be used in the film) and she performed them as well, doing all her own singing. But, Oyelowo doesn't seem entirely certain that the sequences in which Zoe sings will end up in the completed film. That's how that reads to me anyway.
Digging through the S&A archives, skimming through Vanessa's review of a 2011 draft of the script (meaning, the draft of the script that was shot, may have changed), Vanessa mentions that there are a number of scenes in which Nina (Zoe) performs, which she said were the film's highlights. I think we just assumed that she'd be lip-synching; although there was also the question of rights to Nina Simone's music, given that the late singer/activist's estate isn't exactly supportive of the project.
But it looks like director Cynthia Mort has the music she needs, based on this August, 2012 interview with Entertainment Weekly, in which she states:
“Getting the song rights is complicated… With an artist like Nina, it’s scattered. We have secured the rights to a number of songs. We’ve also been in contact with Al Schackman, who was Nina’s guitarist. He’s incredibly supportive of the movie.”
So, as noted, she obviously has rights to some of Nina's songs, because apparently the estate likely doesn't own all of the rights to her music. I can say that, from all the biopics of musicians we've covered, this issue of "scattered rights" seems to be common. As and she said, she also has Nina's guitarist on her side on this.
That takes care of any music rights issues, which I don't think we ever really addressed here, since much of the debate around the film was centered on Zoe's casting as Nina, which Oyelowo addresses in that same E! Online chat, stating:
"You're never going to please everyone. I know what Zoe did in that movie, I know the kind of film we've made and the spirit that went into it and just hope that the people who appreciate the hard work we've put in will come and see the movie."
I don't think I've ever heard Zoe Saldana sing (I'd like to listen if anyone has any links), but apparently, she can, based on all of the above; so we'll see. But I'm sure this will add even more fuel to the already unwieldy fire.
The film is scheduled to debut sometime this year, and, last I checked, it's in post-production, so it's only a matter of time before we get our first official look (via a trailer) at what I predict will be one of the most talked about films of 2013. Controversy sells!
Mike Epps as Richard Pryor, and Ella Thomas as Lorraine Hansberry, round out the starring cast.