New ‘vain’ for Combs

Thesp/rapper eyes lead in HBO's Johnson bio

Sean Combs — the hip-hop figure also known as P. Diddy — is in talks to star in an HBO biopic based on the life of 1930s blues legend Robert Johnson.

Producer Jeff Abelson brought the project, titled “Love in Vain,” to Combs, whose past forays into acting include the features “Monster’s Ball” and “Made.” Tim Blake (“The Grey Zone”) is on board to direct, while Alan Greenberg (“Surviving Picasso”) wrote the script.

Combs received solid notice for his portrayal of a condemned inmate in “Monster’s Ball,” playing opposite Halle Berry. Also known as “Puff Daddy” and “Puffy,” Combs has produced acts including Mary J. Blige and TLC and runs the Bad Boy record label, which is set up at Universal.

As an artist, Combs has earned two Grammy awards. “Love in Vain” would be his first TV movie; he produces and appears in MTV’s “Making the Band 2,” a reality show that follows Combs as he creates a music group from thousands of wannabe singers and rappers.

“Love in Vain” is named after one of the songs recorded by Johnson in 1938. Born in Mississippi to sharecropper parents, Johnson is considered one of the greatest blues guitar players, singers and composers of all time.

Interest in the artist, who remains one of the most influential musicians of all time, revived in the 1990s when a Columbia Records boxed set of Johnson recordings was a surprise platinum-selling hit. Keb’ Mo’ played the musician in the indie film “Can’t You Hear the Wind Howl?”

“Love in Vain” was originally set up at Warner Bros. as a feature; project is still in the early stages of development at HBO. If all goes as planned, the production should start shooting in September.

Combs, who’s repped by Peter Safran, will likely receive some sort of producer credit on the project. Greenberg and Nelson are set as producers alongside Abelson.

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