André 3000's Jimi Hendrix biopic underway without estate support
When it was announced that André Benjamin -– better known as Outkast’s André 3000 -- would be portraying legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix in a biopic, it put to rest years of rumors regarding who would play the psychedelic guitar god on the big screen.
The acclaimed rapper-actor-producer is attached to star in “All Is by My Side,” an upcoming biopic based on an original screenplay from John Ridley (“Red Tails,” “Three Kings”). Ridley will also direct the film, which is produced by Darko Entertainment, Subotica Entertaiment and Matador Pictures.
“All Is by My Side” is based on interviews and archival materials and “captures the energy, the charisma, [and] the mind-boggling talent of a legend whose musical influence still resonates around the world today,” read Thursday's official announcement.
Production is scheduled to get underway in Ireland later this month, but the film has already hit a potentially crippling roadblock: Hendrix's estate says it has no plans to support the picture.
"Various media outlets have recently published accounts that indicate a feature-length Jimi Hendrix biographical film is nearing production. Experience Hendrix, LLC, the family-owned company entrusted with safeguarding the legacy of Jimi Hendrix and administrator of the Jimi Hendrix music and publishing catalog, has made it known many times in the past that no such film, were it to include original music or copyrights created by Jimi Hendrix, can be undertaken without its full participation,” read the lengthy statement issued by his estate.
“All Is by My Side” is reported to take place in England in 1966-67, the period when Hendrix recorded his heralded debut, “Are You Experienced.”
The lack of original music could prove problematic for marketing a big screen film to audiences hoping to get authentic Hendrix tunes. But it wouldn’t be the first time a Hendrix-related project had to do without. Back in 2000, Showtime’s made-for-TV film “Hendrix,” starring “The Wire’s” Wood Harris, featured covers of his tunes. Not exactly a big appeal for filmmakers hoping to launch a soundtrack worth buying, or the opportunity to launch catalog reissues.
Getting a Hendrix flick onto the silver screen has been years in the making, with a new rumor popping up at least once a year, starting with Laurence Fishburne (who famously portrayed Ike Turner) initially attached to one project.
But Benjamin has long made known his aspirations to take on Hendrix. His desire to fill Hendrix's bell bottoms dates back to 2004, when Outkast was at the height of promoting its seminal double album of solo efforts, “Speakerboxx/The Love Below” (Hendrix’s influence could easily be felt on Benjamin’s disc). At that time, the rapper announced he would star in a biopic to be directed by Allen and Albert Hughes (''Menace II Society,'' ''From Hell," “The Book of Eli”).
That 2004 film never came to fruition. Nor did a project rumored to be directed by Lee Daniels from a Max Borenstein script that landed on the infamous Black List with Lenny Kravitz in the starring role.
There was also “Slide,” which was described as “a fictionalized account of what happened during Hendrix’s ‘lost weekend’ in September 1969 when he was supposedly the subject of a hoax kidnapping, orchestrated by his manager." Talks for that film also faded away.
A representative for the production companies making “All Is by My Side” said Thursday that they would not be commenting on the statement from the Hendrix estate.
When asked whether the biopic would feature the iconic rocker’s music, the rep said the production companies “appreciate the valid question, but we’re not getting into specifics outside of what we’ve shared so far.”
-- Gerrick D. Kennedy
Photos: (Left) Jimi Hendrix. Credit: Gered Mankowitz/Bowstir Ltd; (Right) André "André 3000" Benjamin. Credit: Jessica McGowan / For The Times