WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA – FEBRUARY 26: Actress Zoe Saldana arrives at the 2012 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter at Sunset Tower on February 26, 2012 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Zoe Saldana will star as songstress Nina Simone in new biopic

You may be used to seeing Zoe Saldana wielding a gun or wearing blue other-worldly makeup, but it looks like her newest role will have her rocking an afro and hippie beads as iconic songstress Nina Simone in the upcoming biopic “Nina.”

The “Avatar” actress has officially joined the project, Hollywood Reporter has confirmed, and follows her work this summer wrapping up “Out of the Furnace” (starring Christian Bale and Casey Affleck), as well as the second installment of the “Star Trek” series.

Born Eunice Kathleen Waymond in North Carolina, Simone rose to prominence as a singer-songwriter in the 1950s.  The “High Priestess of Soul” later became heavily involved in the civil rights movement and used her jazz and soul-infused music to protest racism against African Americans. Faced with tax issues stateside, Simone eventually moved to France where she passed away in 2003.

The film will concentrate on her relationship with her nurse and manager, Clifton Henderson, who will be played by English actor David Oyelowo. The news of Saldana’s role follows rumors that hip hop star Mary J. Blige dropped out of the film’s title role following financing disputes.

Production on the film is expected to begin in October in Los Angeles. The biopic – finance by UK-based production company Ealing Studio – film has been met with controversy from Simone fans online, claiming that Saldana doesn’t look anything like the famous African American singer.

Adding to the storm of opinion is Simone’s daughter Simone, who shared her thoughts about the casting choice on her Facebook page.

“When the announcement initially hit the press with MJ Blige cast as Nina (about 6 yrs ago) I heard it along with everyone else. The story was written as a love story between my mother and her former nurse, Clifton Henderson and primarily takes place during the last 8 years of her life.

Please note, this project is unauthorized. The Nina Simone Estate was never asked permission nor invited to participate.

I have seen many names regarding who you think should play the role of Nina. Remember Angela Bassett as Tina Turner? SHE NAILED IT! Angela Bassett is an ACTRESS! And, we all know she lip synced along with Tina and did an amazing job. Personally, I prefer an actress to a singer. Just because a person is great at one does not mean they will be great at the other. If written, funded and CAST PROPERLY a movie about my mother will make a lasting imprint.”

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