On Wednesday, the first trailer for this year’s Nina Simone biopic was released to audiences, and the result has been … unfavorable. Potential audiences immediately took to social media to decry the casting of Zoe Saldana in the film’s lead.
P.S. – Nina Simone wanted Whoopi Goldberg to play her in a biopic, which tells me Nina was VERY clear on her representation..
— Film Fatale NYC (@FilmFatale_NYC) March 4, 2016
The last 36 hours has been a rush of suggestions as to who should really play the lead mixed with insults tossed in Saldana’s direction. Yesterday, for example, Nina Simone’s estate responded thusly to a Simone quote posted on Saldana’s Twitter feed:
.@zoesaldana Cool story but please take Nina's name out your mouth. For the rest of your life.
— Nina Simone (@NinaSimoneMusic) March 3, 2016
Which seems … a little harsh. Sure, the observation that Simone and Saldana aren’t exactly twins is spot on, but Hollywood has a long history of casting talented actors to portray famous people who didn’t look anything like them. Heck, Cate Blanchett got rave reviews for playing Bob Dylan. No, the real crime in Nina isn’t Saldana’s performance (which at least seems enthusiastic), it’s the makeup. They’ve darkened her skin and used mild prosthetics to elicit a more Simone-like appearance and it didn’t go well.
The acting ain't terrible but Zoe looks like Don Cheadle if he was dressed as Shirley Chisholm dressed as Nina Simone for Halloween
— MonsterKing (@CerromeRussell) March 2, 2016
So, let’s think about blaming the scads of people who were in charge of the aesthetics before we put the entirety of the blame on the shoulders of an otherwise talented actress, especially when we haven’t even seen the entire film yet.
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