The biopic about Nina Simone has been fraught with controversy since the announcement of Zoe Saldana starring as the titular singer. Now, there is controversy about a quote tweeted by the actress.
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Saldana faced criticism over her casting because she lacks singing experience and she doesn't actually look like the singer and civil rights activist. Nina Simone was an extremely beautiful woman, like Saldana, but she was quite darker than her and had different features. Make-up artists had to dark Saldana's skin for her to play the role and give her a prosthetic nose, according to Rolling Stone.
When the first trailer was released for the heavily delayed film, Saldana tweeted a quote from Simone, "I'll tell you what freedom is to me — No Fear ... I mean really, no fear."
Simone's estate also replied on Twitter, "Cool story but please take Nina's name out your mouth. For the rest of your life." Not long after, the account added: "Hopefully people begin to understand this is painful. Gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, nauseating, soul-crushing. It shall pass, but for now…"
A representative couldn't be reached for comment.
In response, the founder and chairman of the distribution company that has the rights to the film, RLJ Entertainment, "Zoe Saldana delivers an exceptional and mesmerizing tribute to Nina Simone. She gave her heart and soul to the role and displayed her extraordinary talent. The most important thing is that creativity or quality of performance should never be judged on the basis of color, or ethnicity, or physical likeness. Quality entertainment should be measured by the sheer force of creativity and the commitment that an actor or actress brings to the performance."
Simone's daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, was particularly disturbed by the casting: “My mother was raised at a time when she was told her nose was too wide [and] her skin was too dark. Appearance-wise, this is not the best choice." Simone Kelly worked on her own version of her mother's legacy, with an acclaimed Netflix documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone?.
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Nina will arrive in theaters and video-on-demand on April 22nd.