HOW TWO MUSICAL BIOPICS GENERATED VERY DIFFERENT CRITICAL REACTIONS
HIS IS A TALE OF two biopics. Both involve actors playing musical icons. Yet only one has become mired in controversy.
I Saw The Light tells the tale of Hank Williams, the Alabama country singer responsible for classic songs like Lovesick Blues, who died at the height of his fame aged just 29. He’s played in Marc Abraham’s movie by Tom Hiddleston, a man so British his face could fit on a fiver. “He was the real deal,” says Hiddleston of Williams. “His music was just so searingly honest.”
Yet, despite not seeming the most obvious fit for Williams’ unique brand of Americana, only a minor relative has come forward to suggest that Hiddleston might not be the most authentic choice.
Compare and contrast with Nina, Cynthia Mort’s movie about the final years of blues legend Nina Simone. From the minute Zoe Saldana was cast in 2012 as a late replacement for Mary J. Blige, the film has attracted criticism from some quarters, including Simone’s own daughter, Simone Kelly, for the decision to choose Saldana, a lighter-skinned Puerto Rican-american, to play the dark-skinned singer.
However, filming went ahead and now, almost four years later, after going through production difficulties, the movie is ready for its US release. Which is when it all kicked off again. A trailer for the movie, showcasing the heavy make-up Saldana underwent in order to play Simone, with darker skin and a prosthetic nose, was greeted with derision. A tweet from Saldana quoting Simone — “I’ll tell you what freedom is to me — no fear” — elicited a response from @Ninasimonemusic, the official Twitter account of Simone’s estate, which had no involvement with the