EXCLUSIVE: As recently as last month, "Training Day" director Antoine Fuqua was slated to direct a biopic about the life of Tupac Shakur. Now 24 Frames has learned that the director has stepped away from that film and is instead poised to join a movie that revolves around a different hip-hop artist: Eminem.
Fuqua is set to come aboard "Southpaw," a fictional boxing drama written and conceived by "Sons of Anarchy" creator Kurt Sutter and starring the Detroit rapper, said a source briefed on the film who requested anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak about it publicly. The DreamWorks film aims to shoot later this year. Fuqua has no formal deal in place as yet. [Update, 6:52 p.m.: A person close to Fuqua said the two still must work out a number of deal points.]
A studio spokeswoman declined comment.
The project's progress is good news for fans of Eminem, who received acclaim for his turn as a talented rapper in 2002's "8 Mile" but has not taken a lead movie part since. The man born Marshall Mathers does have a propensity for working with top-tier filmmakers: "8 Mile" was directed by Curtis Hanson, and Eminem also appeared in this year's well-regarded Chrysler Super Bowl spot, which was helmed by decorated music-video director Samuel Bayer.
"Southpaw" tells of a lefty welterweight whose life is buffeted by tragedy even as he's fought his way to a title; it's informed by struggles in Eminem's own life. Boxing movies have enjoyed a new vogue in development circles since "The Fighter" became a surprise hit and an Oscar winner this last winter.
The Fuqua attachment would throw into question the fate of the Tupac movie, which, after several stops and starts, was set to shoot later this year. But the film was being developed in conjunction with the late rapper's mother, Afeni, and Fuqua was an essential creative element that helped persuade Afeni to cooperate.
Eminem has often said he was inspired by the work of Shakur and has several songs in the "Tupac: Resurrection" documentary about the slain rapper's life.
Fuqua is known for a rigorous directing style that often involves shooting in gritty neighborhoods. His police tale "Training Day" helped Denzel Washington win an Oscar. Although that film came out a decade ago, Fuqua has been in demand in Hollywood of late and had attached himself to numerous films -- including a vigilante thriller titled "Prisoners," a biopic about Pablo Escobar and, just two weeks ago, an untitled Chinese-language period romance.
He hasn't made a movie since the ensemble cop drama "Brooklyn's Finest," which he shot in 2008.
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: Eminem performing at the Grammy Awards in February. Credit: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times