I have no idea how good an actress Mary J. Blige is, but I hope to God she’s a good one. The story of Nina Simone (real name Eunice Kathleen Waymon), the brilliant, amazingly talented jazz singer who died of breast cancer in 2003, is an amazingly compelling one. Blige is an incredibly talented singer, so they’ve got that part right. It remains to be seen whether she’s got the acting chops.
The story is based on Simone’s autobiography, “I Put a Spell on You,” and the screenplay was written by Cynthia Mort, who will also direct. Mort is a well-known TV writer, who worked on shows like “Roseanne,” “Will and Grace,” as well as the dreadfully drab sex-fest “Tell Me You Love Me.” She’s apparently a huge Simone fan, which is good to hear, but her only film writing consists of the middling The Brave One. Quite the varied resume that Ms. Mort has.
The film will focus on Simone’s relationship with her assistant, Clifton Henderson, who will be played by David Oyelowo, who has a host of TV credits to his name and few well-known film credits, although he did play Dr. Junju in the outstanding The Last King of Scotland. For now, the film is in very early pre-production — no other actors have been cast yet, and no release date has been set other than that it will be released some time in 2012. In the meantime, if you haven’t heard Simone, brush up. Trust me, it’ll be time well spent.
In the meantime, here’s a taste of Mary J (with Wyclef Jean), in one of my favorite songs.
And here’s a little bit of Nina as well.