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Will a Tupac Shakur film ever get some California love?

June 13, 2011 |  8:04 pm

Tupac Few movie projects have been as hotly anticipated among music fans — or for that matter as embattled — as a Tupac Shakur biopic.

After a two-year legal battle, a settlement in February between producers Morgan Creek and Shakur's mother, Afeni, looked to finally clear the way for the film to get made. Then the project took what looked like a body blow last week when director Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day") entered negotiations to helm a movie centered on a different rapper, Eminem.

Fuqua had been Afeni Shakur's choice; without him, the Tupac film would not only to have to start from scratch but find someone who was equally satisfactory to the late rapper's mother.

But instead of letting Fuqua walk, Morgan Creek has now responded with a stroke of its own. The company has made Fuqua pay-or-play — a piece of Hollywood lingo that means Fuqua will get paid even if the company doesn't make the movie with him. Essentially, it commits producers to Fuqua and makes it on balance more likely a film will get made. A Morgan Creek spokesman confirmed the move.

Fuqua could now conceivably direct both the Eminem and the Tupac films — and, if things break right, even direct the Tupac movie first.

Morgan Creek does have to grapple with casting the lead part. While the company has looked at several veteran actors, a person familiar with the production who asked anonymity because of the sensitive nature of casting discussions said producers are leaning toward an unknown who has a similar look and background to the Harlem-born, California-raised star. They would then coach him on the acting skills. (Other rap biopics, like the Biggie Smalls tale "Notorious," have employed a similar tactic.) But filmmakers have yet to agree on a casting direction. A Morgan Creek spokesman declined to comment on casting.

Had he lived, Tupac Shakur would have turned 40 on Thursday. His legacy remains strong — nearly 40 million records sold in the U.S. and a cultural influence that far exceeds that. Those involved in developing a feature about him, though, could be forgiven for feeling sometimes like it's them against the world.

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Selena Gomez starts to move away from her Disney roots -- sort of

— Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

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