Empire (UK) - - PREMIERE -

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

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