LOS ANGELES (AP) — Queen Latifah and Paula Patton are putting aside the controversy surrounding the Nina Simone biopic, “Nina,” and waiting to see how Zoe Saldana does in the title role.
While critics say it was wrong of producers to cast a lighter-skinned actress to portray Simone, who celebrated her dark skin and traditionally African features, Latifah and Patton are reserving judgment until the film’s release next month.
“I think Zoe Saldana’s a great actress so I am looking forward to it,” Latifah said Monday at the premiere of “The Perfect Match,” which she produced. “And you know she is of African descent. I don’t see why she shouldn’t get to play the role, you know. But I just want to see it — you know, get rid of the hype and let’s go watch the movie.”
Simone’s daughter and others have decried Saldana’s casting since she took the part in 2012. Her skin was apparently darkened for the role, and she wears a prosthetic nose.
The Simone estate, which cooperated in making the Oscar-nominated documentary “What Happened, Miss Simone?”, recently tweeted: “Hopefully people begin to understand this is painful. Gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, nauseating, soul-crushing.”
Patton, though, said she’s “not into negativity like that,” especially since the film has yet to be released.
“I think it’s a horrible thing to put that on somebody,” she said Monday. “Clearly someone thought she was perfect for it. She’s an amazing actress, she’s beautiful and you haven’t even given her a chance and you haven’t seen it yet…
“Imagine being in her shoes and enduring that,” Patton said. “It’s not cool and it’s not right. I think we have to be in a place where we celebrate each other and are kind to one another and say there’s all different versions of the story and versions of an idea.”
In “Nina,” Saldana plays the Grammy-winning singer and outspoken civil rights activist, who struggled with depression and alcoholism after finding fame. David Oyelowo co-stars as her stalwart friend Clifton Henderson, who helped her return to music.
RLJ Entertainment will release “Nina” in theaters and digital HD on April 22. “The Perfect Match” opens Friday.