With three Nina Simone biopic films released in a short period, comparisons over quality were inevitable, but a more in-depth battle over casting and accuracy has also broken out ahead of the launch of the latest movie Nina.
Netflix film What Happened Miss Simone? and Jeff L. Lieberman’s The Amazing Nina Simone both came out in 2015. This year sees Nina starring Zoe Saldana launched, and the latest movie has already proven unpopular with Simone’s estate, who attacked the casting of lighter-skinned Saldana earlier this month.
Jeff Lieberman has now gone in-depth in his analysis of rival movie Nina, writing a guest essay for The Hollywood Reporter that slams Saldana’s casting in the lead role, as well as hitting out at the accuracy of the new movie.
Saldana’s skin colour – notably lighter than Simone’s – has come in for much comment, with Lieberman giving a strong view:
“Recognizing and admitting themselves that she did not look the part and was not going to disappear into the role, they dressed her up (poorly) in blackface makeup and prosthetics, ignoring the horrible history of this type of portrayal,” he writes.
He adds “People of all colors are angered because Hollywood has a long history of casting lighter-skinned actors, and even today with a black president in the Oval Office, the Oscars overlooking black actors, and the Black Lives Matter movement at its tipping point, dark-skinned people are still passed over, even for the role of a woman whose story is defined by her proud blackness.”
A trailer for the new movie can be seen via YouTube, below:
The letter then goes on to criticise the accuracy of the film, adding:
“The trailer for Nina reveals Ms. Saldana as Nina brandishing a gun, being strapped down in a hospital and throwing champagne bottles.
“Where there wasn’t truth, they invented it – turning Ms. Simone’s assistant, Clifton Henderson (played by David Oyelowo), into a love interest, despite the fact that he was an out gay man – and either willfully or ignorantly opted not to show Ms. Simone as she truly was, a woman in her 60s who had gained significant weight. Ms. Saldana in the film appears middle-aged and thin.”
Nina is due out on April 22.