Warner Bros. has acquired Marvin Gaye biopic “What’s Going On,” Variety has confirmed.
“What’s Going On” has been in the works for a number of years. The news that Dr. Dre was working on a film about the late soul icon first broke in 2018. Dr. Dre will produce alongside Jimmy Iovine and Andrew Lazar, with Allen Hughes set to direct. After a number of tries to adapt Gaye’s story for the big screen, Warner Bros. has struck a deal that includes a script by poet-playwright Marcus Gardley and the rights to use all of Gaye’s signature songs, as his estate and Motown were part of the agreement.
Gaye’s life has long warranted its place among great music biopics. The legendary singer put out such hits as “What’s Going On,” “Sexual Healing” and “Let’s Get It On,” and was later fatally shot in 1984 at age 44 by his father. Over the last few decades, F. Gary Gray, Cameron Crowe, James Gandolfini, Scott Rudin, Jesse L. Martin and Lenny Kravitz have all failed to get the authorization from Gaye’s family to tell his story.
Instead of a traditional, linear biopic, “What’s Going On” will thread Gaye’s past with the events that shaped his final tour to result in a “musical odyssey” and “theatrical experience,” according to Deadline Hollywood, which first broke the news about Warners acquiring the biopic. It will chronicle his relationship with his father, address the demons that haunted him and celebrate the women who inspired his iconic love songs. Production is anticipated to start next year for a 2023 release.