Three and a half years ago Cameron Crowe began quietly working on a biopic of the late soul R&B singer Marvin Gaye.
We say quietly because to find any such references from 2007 are nearly impossible and if you look at most movie or music sites or blogs you won't find nary a mention (yes, including the good ol' Playlist). Essentially, this has never been widely reported. Interestingly enough, it was mentioned briefly in a August 2009, LATimes article, but no one seemed to pick up on it.
Variety delivers more details today, in a lengthy feature about the difficulties and obstacles of bringing rock n' roll biopics to the screen (always seemingly a sisyphean task with several rights issues involved).
It's kind of amazing what Crowe has done in secret so far. The project is already set up at Sony, Scott Rudin is already attached as the producer and he's even secured extensive music rights and the full cooperation of Motown founder Berry Gordy. However, the project is now apparently being re-conceived, so that Crowe and Sony can come to terms on the budget. We presume that means the budget needs to come down and Crowe likely has to rework the script and potentially take out some scenes or rewrite them (lord, we'd love to get our hands on that script).
Evidently Will Smith was once in the running for the role, but eventually passed.
Gaye has meant a lot to Crowe — in a 2000 Guardian article about his career, the filmmaker wrote on his transition from rock journalist into a screenwriter and then eventually, a feature-film director noting Gaye was one of the last key artists he wanted to interview before moving on in this new direction.
By the end of the 70s I started to burn out on journalism. I was taking on too much and taking too long with stories. I didn't know how much further I could go. I wanted to interview Marvin Gaye, but he wasn't doing any more interviews. That was when I started on "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."Meanwhile, competing Marvin Gaye biopics have been in the works for some time now and we've got to wonder if that made Crowe and Rudin nervous? "Law & Order" star Jesse L. Martin was supposed to begin shooting a Gaye biopic titled, "Sexual Healing" in April of 2008, but for whatever reason it never got before the cameras, even though it was all set to go in February of that year. "Sopranos" actor James Gandolfini was in fact a producer on the film and was supposed to play Belgian promoter Freddy Cousaert, who guided the singer through his comeback, recording his last and biggest-selling studio album, 1982's Midnight Love.
Then later in September of 2008, another biopic was announced with director F. Gary Gray ("The Italian Job," the stoner comedy, "Friday") at the helm. Titled, "Marvin," that film obviously hasn't hit the screen either, but was said to be a big passion project of Gray's.
Either way, a Cameron Crowe directed Marvin Gaye biopic feels a ways off. His next film looks like it will be "We Bought A Zoo" which is based on Benjamin Mee's autobiography, and may star Ben Stiller. Stiller and Crowe (and Reese Witherspoon) had already been set to team on the long-gestating Hawaii-set dramedy "Deep Tiki" which was ankled last year and now seems to have gone dormant.
Gaye's life is a fascinating and tragic one. In 1983, exhausted after his Love tour, the singer moved in with his parents in Los Angeles. Gaye's father Marvin Sr. shot his son to death after a business argument on April 1, 1984, one day before his forty-fifth birthday.