Here’s our look at some of the folks we’d love to see profiled – and our choices to play them.
Actor/singer Tyrese Gibson has already been tapped to star in a Pendergrass biopic and approved by none other than the late star himself before his death last year. We think that’s a pretty good choice, given the dearth of contemporary male singers who have the vocal chops, the acting skills and the, ahem, masculine qualities to portray the charismatic singer. Gibson – who’s multitasking these days with a new book, “How To Get Out of Your Own Way,” out this week – also has the necessary attitude to play the singer whose life and career were drastically altered after a car accident.
No, sweetie, we just don’t see Halle Berry portraying you in your biopic, but we love your hubris. Your story – and your talent – is just too great to be played by a woman who admittedly can’t sing. Not to mention, well, the obvious, but you’re the Queen of Soul, so we won’t go there. We’d love to see Jennifer Hudson take this on, though she’d probably decline rather than be typecast as a strong singer with weight issues in every movie. We think Amber Riley of “Glee” fame might be the one. She’s got the vocal skills. She can act. She can be aged with makeup and prosthetics, and she would probably love to honor you that way. Have your people call her people, ASAP.
It’s a damn shame that no one – not even HBO during Black History Month – has ever told the story of this pioneering black female aviator, the very first African-American woman to earn a pilot’s license. The barnstorming Coleman was at the forefront of the burgeoning aviation industry and was a pioneer because of both her race and gender. But while several books have been written, and there are aviation clubs and various streets and parks named after Coleman in her adopted hometown of Chicago, no biopic. We think Jurnee Smollett should take on this project, and get it done. She has the skills to play Coleman, who died tragically in a plane crash at age 34. Someone, somewhere, should get this made.
MADAME CJ WALKER
We’re absolutely shocked that the nation’s first self-made female millionaire hasn’t had a biopic made by now. Her story is an amazing one, and she made all her money on black women while trying to help them branch out to make money on their own as well. The hair care entrepreneur was also a civil rights activist, contributing to many black organizations, including the NAACP. She married three times, but apparently didn’t need a man to take care of her. Walker, with the help of a black architect, built herself a mansion, Villa Lewaro, on the outskirts of New York City and died there at the age of 51. We think Queen Latifah could bring her story to life and that Oprah Winfrey would be the best person to produce it. In fact, we’re can’t understand why she hasn’t already.
STEPHANIE ST. CLAIR
The notorious Harlem numbers runner has already been portrayed in two films – “The Cotton Club” and “Hoodlum.”
ZORA NEALE HURSTON
The author of the classic “Their Eyes Were Watching God” would probably be happy to know her work was translated into a book, but what about her own fascinating life? Hurston was a cultural anthropologist who studied black people and their unique culture, even writing about the popular slang terms of the time. She was part of the group of black writers and artists who made up the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s. Hurston might best be played by newcomer Nicole Beharie, who lit up the screen in her debut “American Violet.”
A Marvin Gaye biopic is reportedly in the works – but has been practially forever. Jesse L. Martin of “Law and Order” fame was supposed to play the tragic singer, but no word on when the project is shooting or what stage it is in development. We’re not sure about the casting there, but its hard to figure out just who could truly capture the spirit of the talented but troubled superstar. Maybe a newcomer would fit the role better, but his story should definitely be told, as he was one of the most amazing artists of the Motown – or any – musical era.
Mo’Nique wants to play Hattie McDaniel so much that when she won her Oscar for “Precious” in 2010, she wore gardenias in her hair and a dress reminiscent of the one McDaniel wore to her historic Oscar win for “Gone With the Wind” in 1939. While the world may have viewed McDaniel as the mammy-like character she played in that movie, McDaniel was actually a force in black Hollywood. The multi-talented McDaniel was also the first African-American woman to sing on the radio in the U.S. and was known for her fabulous home and parties in Los Angeles. McDaniels also married four times and was great friends with many Hollywood stars of the era, including Clark Gable.
Mo’Nique owns the rights to McDaniel’s life story and says that her “Precious” director Lee Daniels will also direct the biopic. We hope she gets it done, as she’d be the perfect person to bring McDaniels’ fascinating story to the big screen.