Nina Simone Estate Slams Biopic Star Zoe Saldana

Zoe Saldana's 'Nina' Casting Slammed by
Rob Latour/WWD/REX/Shutterstock

Nina Simone’s estate responded negatively to the casting of Zoe Saldana in Nina Simone biopic “Nina,” taking to Twitter to slam the actress late on Wednesday.

“Please take Nina’s name out of your mouth. For the rest of your life,” the estate tweeted at Saldana’s account.

In another tweet, the estate said, “Hopefully people begin to understand this is painful. Gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, nauseating, soul-crushing. It shall pass, but for now…”

Robert L. Johnson, who’s distributing the biopic, responded on Thursday with strong support for Saldana’s portrayal of the late singer following criticism of her casting.

“Zoë Saldana delivers an exceptional and mesmerizing tribute to Nina Simone,” said Johnson, founder and chairman of RLJ Entertainment and founder of BET. “She gave her heart and soul to the role and displayed her extraordinary talent.”

The film opens in theaters, VOD and digital HD on April 22. The film, directed by Cynthia Mort from her own script, was not authorized by Simone’s estate.

After the first trailer for the film was released on Wednesday, Saldana tweeted on her account by quoting the late singer: “I’ll tell you what freedom is to me- No Fear… I mean really, no fear.”

Saldana was cast in 2012 as Simone, prompting protests from Simone’s daughter Lisa Simone Kelly and others over her lack of resemblance to the actress.

Simone, who died in 2003, was a singer, songwriter and civil rights activist who performed in a wide range of styles including classical, jazz, blues, gospel and pop. She was a 15-time Grammy nominee and received the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 2000.

RLJ Entertainment bought the North American rights to “Nina” in September, with Johnson noting that he had worked with Simone and asserting that he knew “first-hand of her major contribution to the soul and emotion of the Civil Rights Movement.”

The film focuses on the singer’s relationship with her former nurse-turned-manager Clifton Henderson, played by David Oyelowo. In the trailer, Simone offers Henderson a job to help take care of her affairs, followed by several scenes of her  struggle to get her career back on path as she battles a drinking problem.

Johnson’s statement concluded: “The most important thing is that creativity or quality of performance should never be judged on the basis of color, or ethnicity, or physical likeness. Quality entertainment should be measured by the sheer force of creativity and the commitment that an actor or actress brings to the performance. We are proud to distribute the film headlined by Zoë Saldana and David Oyelowo on April 22, 2016.”

The documentary “What Happened, Miss Simone?,” directed by Liz Garbus and released last year by Netflix, was nominated this year for an Academy Award but lost to the Amy Winehouse documentary “Amy.”

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  1. Baru says:

    Not sure I understand what the issue is? Is she not BLACK ENOUGH?

  2. Sophia says:

    Johnson’s statement concluded: “The most important thing is that creativity or quality of performance should never be judged on the basis of color, or ethnicity, or physical likeness. Quality entertainment should be measured by the sheer force of creativity and the commitment that an actor or actress brings to the performance. If that is the case why put a prostate nose and blacken the actress isn’t that like an insult to both Saldana and Simone! We’ve come so far as a culture and still have to take a step back! If it was about playing the part they should of left her alone! If it was about exact looks then they should of found an equally addiquite actress for the part. All is said and done and the thing to focus on now is if the message and likelihood of Simone is put across that most of time is lost in the substance of most movies. If so I think all of this controversy can be put to rest no matter who plays the part. If not, then there’s another problem!

  3. Dany says:

    You guys are late to the party and posted wrong informations. Nina’s estate has nothing to do with that comment, the page is run by someone who didn’t consult with her family before attacking the actress. In fact, Simone’s daughter told TIME in an interview Thursday that she didn’t know that comment was made and she disagreed “It’s unfortunate that Zoe Saldana is being attacked so viciously when she is someone who is part of a larger picture,” said Simone Kelly, 53, who is also an actress and singer. “It’s clear she brought her best to this project, but unfortunately she’s being attacked when she’s not responsible for any of the writing or the lies.”
    .

  4. Christopher says:

    This casting was wrong-headed from the get-go. Nothing against Saldana, but she is a terrible choice. I know they can’t all be Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles or Streisand as Fanny Brice–actors who seemed born to inhabit the stars they played–but this is so off the beam that I’m telling everyone to see the Simone documentary instead.

    • common sense gal says:

      The producers of the movie chose Saldana for the role over other actresses. She is an actress, it is how she makes her money for a living. Why are people attacking her? and not the directors and producers who made the movie.

  5. ANONYMOUS says:

    Probably one of my favorite actresses of ALL TIME and it has NOTHING to do with the fact she is black…shes an amazing actress and chooses the right roles at the right time!

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