Written by: Taleeb Elewonibi
He remains one of the most talked about artists in recent history. Despite his death some 20 years ago, his popularity continues to grow and his works continue to resonate with youths and adults alike all over the world. On June 16th 2017 screenwriters Jeremy Haft, Eddie Gonzalez and Steven Bagatourian along with acclaimed hiphop director Benny Boom will share with us a version of the untold story of pop culture icon Tupac Shakur. Aptly titled All Eyez on Me, a reference of course to the West Coast legend’s groundbreaking (it was hip hop’s first ever full length double CD), near flawless album released in 1996. The R rated film’s release date is poetic in nature as it is on the same day Tupac would be turning 46 had he lived to see it. It is unclear however, as this article will illustrate, if Tupac would have given the project his full blessing.
There is no doubt that the studios behind this film, Morgan Creek Productions and Program Pictures (owned by LT Hutton, a man who knew and had plenty of dealings with Tupac when he was alive), having spent some 45 million dollars in production costs, will be counting on some level of commercial success. One hopes that no realism was sacrificed to achieve this goal. Much has been made of all the legal wrangling behind the scenes prior to the movie’s release. Alleged court documents (available to read on youtube) seem to show that In 2009, Morgan Creek sued Shakur’s mother, Afeni Shakur (who then counter-sued) over the music rights to the film before the two reached a settlement in 2011. The exact nature of that settlement is up for debate.
Tupac’s cousin William (Bill Bang) Lesane, via a youtube video sheds more light on the topic stating the following:
“Afeni Shakur didn’t have anything to do with this Tupac Biopic. In Fact, she settled the case for her best interest. Afeni Shakur attorneys told her, part of the deal was a gag-order. Afeni Shakur or the Shakur Family is not to speak bad about movie publicly, that was apart of the deal. Afeni Shakur attorneys told her she can’t keep fighting with a billion dollar company “Morgan Creek Productions” because it will cost too much, so she settled.”
Afeni Shakur’s attorneys will also face heavy criticism from another one of Tupac’s close associates but i’ll touch more on that later.
In his video statement William Lesane goes on to say that:
”Edi and Young Noble (close friends of Tupac Shakur and members of well known rap group The Outlawz) chose to work with Morgan Creek because they got paid. But Kastro, Napolean (other Outlaws group members) and the rest of the Outlawz chose to be loyal to Afeni Shakur and refuse to accept money or be involved.”
Afeni Shakur, who died in May 2016 (The official story is that it was most likely a heart attack, I won’t speculate any further) is not listed as an executive producer on IMDB despite her right to credit. According to the hollywood reporter she was angry about not being meaningfully consulted about the eventual choice of director. She was fine with Antoine Fuqua (who originally was on board) and had also expressed approval for legendary Boyz in the Hood director, John Singleton when he was subsequently chosen, but didn’t explicitly cosign the eventual director, Benny Boom, known mostly only for music videos.
In April of last year, John Singleton effectively told XXL magazine that he had been cut from the project, citing ethics as the reason for his dismissal:
“The people involved aren’t really respectful of the legacy of Tupac Amaru Shakur…. How you gonna make a movie about a man when you suing his mother to get the rights to tell his story?!”
The rest of Shakur’s camp was also upset with how things were being handled and with Afeni passing, the heirs had hoped to regain rights to make their own version (details of which are mentioned below). A sneak peak at an early cut of All Eyez on Me did little to change their minds. Insiders say they view the film as a superficial movie that isn’t particularly accurate.
The aforementioned Young Noble, attempting to set the record straight, released a long heartfelt letter via social media last month, addressing all aspects of the issue and dropping several bombshells in the process. He paints a starkly different picture, placing much of the blame on the lawyer charged with handling Tupac’s estate for Afeni Shakur claiming that:
”Morgan Creek did not sue Afeni Shakur to steal the rights to this movie. Morgan Creek & 2pac estate entered into an agreement to do the movie and then the 2pac estate lawyer tried to back out the deal and do a deal with a different movie company. The whole time trying to broker a side deal for herself with Morgan Creek for over a million dollars and didn’t even tell Afeni what she was doing. Morgan Creek got a call from the same movie company that the estate lawyer tried to do the back door deal with asking to be partners in the film, so Morgan Creek threatened to sue the lawyer & 2pac estate for breach of an agreement.She settled and they had to proceed with Morgan Creek in the making of the movie. So after the mistakes on the lawyer behalf and getting the 2pac estate locked into this movie deal the lawyer quits as the estates lawyer after making millions off 2pac for the last 20 years. She messed up, got caught then she QUIT!!! This is the same lawyer who took advantage of The Outlawz when we was young & naive in the game. She was Outlawz lawyer as well as Afeni lawyer. First thing she had us do in 1997 was sign a waiver saying we can’t sue her for being our lawyer an Afeni lawyer at the same time. We didn’t understand the business at the time but it was a 100% conflict of interest. A creative control issue occurred about what actor the estate wanted to play 2pac in the film (Michael B Jordan) and Morgan creek & LT didn’t agree. I’m sure a lot of yall recently seen a interview from William (Bill Bang) Lesane who is Pac cousin who is also someone I consider family. He just did a interview giving false statements then he just retracted his statements to Morgan Creek & LT Hutton and wrote them a letter apologizing. But even in his interview he confirming what this letter is about he admits all this was the 2pac estates lawyer fault. He doing interviews saying he quit from directing the film because the producers wasn’t telling Pac story with integrity and they sued Afeni when the truth is he got fired from the job. We got the call the day he got fired and honestly i was kinda upset because i thought he was the perfect guy to direct Pac movie until i heard the reason he got fired. John wrote his own script for the movie and in his script he had a scene insinuating 2pac getting raped in jail and he had Afeni as a lesbian and wanted a scene in there with her doing some lesbian activities. So this dude John Singleton was gonna put all kinda lies and made up shit and give y’all some real Hollywood movie so he got fired on the spot and now he out here doing interviews saying he quit like he was doing something out of honor for Pac & Afeni.”
With all that said, audiences will have to decide for themselves whether or not to support this movie. As a self confessed Tupac Stan (The word Stan just got added to the dictionary in 2017, better look it up if you can’t figure out its meaning) myself I have seen all previous on screen Tupac inspired stories, and while they were each unique in their own right, none of them gave the holistic, all encompassing tale I and many others had been yearning for. Boasting a whopping 150 minute run time, All Eyez On Me will certainly have room to deliver a fitting epic on the level of Malcolm X. The 3 trailers released so far indicate the film will start before Pac was born and extend until after his death,meaning we should get to see some rousing revolutionary black panther scenes featuring the Shakur family, and learn how that movement influenced Tupac as he grew.
We will also get to witness all the other intense storylines we have read about for the past two decades. That infamous Quad recording Studio shooting, Tupac’s friendship turned rivalry with Christopher Wallace (a.k.a The Notorious B.I.G), his courtroom testimony, prison life, and all the moments leading up to that fated night in downtown Las vegas, as well as the reactions of the world at large to his death.
While there are reports that Afeni Shakur had displayed a preference for Michael B Jordan, eventual Lead Actor Demetrius Shipp, Jr. certainly looks the part, as does Dominic L. Santana who will reprise the role of Death Row Mogul Suge Knight. The cast does not exactly boast A level talent across the board,but fans will recognize Danai Gurira, best known as Michonne from The Walking Dead, who plays Afeni Shakur and Jamie Hector, who played Marlo from hit hbo show The Wire, who plays Tupac’s stepfather Mutulu Shakur. Personally, I don’t mind that the movie will be carried by the strength of the story as opposed to pure star power. Moviegoers may not recognize a lot of the actors, but they certainly know a lot of the real life figures they will portray: Jada Pinkett, Treach, Ray Luv, Snoop and Haitian Jack are just a few among many of the famous names that will feature in the movie.
The mega success of 2016’s Straight Outta Compton shows that audiences have a healthy appetite for hip hop origin stories when done right. Perhaps the time is perfect for one of Hip Hop’s royal figures to finally get the hollywood treatment. This will not however be the last time we see Tupac on screen. On May 9 2017 Amaru Entertainment, a company founded by the rap star’s late mother, Afeni Shakur, announced support for 12 Years A Slave director Steve McQueen’s upcoming, as yet untitled, Tupac documentary. So keep your eyes open for that one if this movie ends up not living up to your expectations.
And that's a picture wrap. Still can't believe what my life has become and is becoming. Not too long ago it was just struggle, stress and trying to figure it all out. Now I just wrapped up a feature film and I'm the star, and not just any movie, the life of Tupac, CRAZY. 2015 threw every curveball possible in the midst of preparation to get this role. Thank God for giving me what I needed to keep going and blessing me with the role. Thank you to all the crew and cast, man yall helped make this experience unforgettable 4real. I've made some life long friendships within this film and can't wait til we're all together again at the premiere. R.i.p to Tupac Shakur, you're a Black Pioneer and a Hero to our people and culture. I hope my performance pays tribute and gives insight to your life and most of all "Spark the brain"