Zoe Saldana’s controversial turn as legendary singer and activist Nina Simone is on its way to theaters.
RLJ Entertainment recently announced that it has acquired the North American rights to Nina and plans to release the film in December.
“I had the special privilege early in my career of working with Ms. Simone while coordinating a performance for former D.C. Delegate Walter E. Fauntroy and knowing first-hand of her major contribution to the soul and emotion of the Civil Rights Movement,” said RLJE chairman and Black Entertainment Television (BET) founder Robert L. Johnson. “I look forward as I am sure many others will, to her story and legacy being made available by RLJ Entertainment to consumers on various media platforms in the coming months.”
The film, written and directed by Cynthia Mort (“Roseanne”, “Will & Grace”), follows the rise of Simone, a 15-time Grammy nominee known for classics such as “My Baby Just Cares For Me”, “Feeling Good,” and “To Be Young Gifted and Black.” Her struggles to balance a hectic recording and touring schedule with her dedicated activism left her feeling isolated from America and living alone in France. It was in France that she would meet Clifton Henderson (David Oyelowo), who would go on to become her assistant and confidant.
Nina has faced a slew of problems on its way to theaters including cast changes, lawsuits, and several delays in production. Mary J. Blige was originally attached to play Simone but dropped out because of scheduling conflicts. The casting of Saldana in Blige’s place drew widespread criticism as Saldana is of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent, and thought to be too fair skinned and petite to convincingly portray Simone.
Simone’s daughter, Lisa Simons Kelly, has also criticized the film, opting instead to lend her support to the critically heralded Netflix documentary about her mother entitled What Happened, Miss Simone?