The director of the untitled Bob Marley biopic is confident in British actor playing the lead role after “exquisite” audition tape.
Filming hasn’t even begun for the impending Bob Marley featured film but fan critics in Jamaica are already lamenting the decision to cast British actor Kingsley Ben-Adir as the lead. The Guildhall School of Music and Drama alum who is best known for his role as Malcolm X in the 2020 drama One Night In Miami, reportedly does not have any formal musical training but his superb acting skills caught the attention of the film’s director Reinaldo Marcus Green.
Green, whose directorial debut, King Richard, earned Will Smith his first Oscar win in March, told the Observer that he was more interested in Ben-Adir’s acting than musical background. He says his approach will be quite similar to when he cast the young girls who play Serena and Venus Williams in King Richard.
“I was more interested in his acting. The same way that I approached King Richard, the two young actresses that play Venus and Serena [Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton] had no sports capabilities whatsoever. It’s about being great actors – and then training,” the director told The Guardian.
Green explained that he was “blow away” by the actor’s audition tape and found “how strong a performer he is” after looking into his other work.
In Jamaica, the land from which the featured reggae icon hails, fans have expressed concerns about the British actor being cast in the role considering that he has no musical background. Similarly, Green says the Marley family has expressed that they want the legend to be portrayed “in a way that feels authentic and meaningful.” The director says he is working closely with them, including sons Ziggy Marley and Stephen Marley and daughter Cedella Marley to “fill in any blanks” now that the script is complete.
“We talk all the time. Every step of the way, the script, the casting, the hair, the makeup.” he added. Ziggy, Cedella, and Rita Marley are reportedly producing on behalf of Tuff Gong.
In a previous interview after Green was chosen by Paramount Pictures to direct the biopic, Ziggy Marley told the press, “I am very excited to be hands-on in working to dive deeper into sharing the legacy of who our father Bob Marley is.”
Green admits that the lead actor will never be able to play like Bob in the time he has to prepare for the role, but innovation can circumvent that.
“He can immerse himself in the world of Bob and folks around him, understanding everything from how to hold the guitar to what it’s like being a musician,” the director said about Ben-Adir. “You can’t mimic Bob Marley. You have to have an essence of who he was.”
Green added that a combination of tracks and real voice will be required to pull it off. The actor will have to study Bob Marley through performances, books and “let his fingers bleed while trying to learn how to play the guitar and take method to a whole new level.”
The untitled Bob Marley biopic will focus on the 1970s, around the time the iconic reggae star fled to London after surviving an assassination attempt and recorded his album Exodus, which features timeless hits like “One Love” and “Three Little Birds.” Green’s vision for the biopic is to portray Marley as a “flawed and complex” man with “so many contradictions.”
“He gave a lot of joy and spread messages of love and peace which are as important as ever today. But we want to show every side of Bob, including his toughness, without sugar-coating anything,” Green said.
He added, “I want this to be for people who know and love Bob, and who can still find out things about his life that they didn’t know, as well as introducing him to a new generation.”