Tag: Empress of the Blues

Queen Latifah’s Bessie Smith biopic “Bessie” Set to Debut May 16th on HBO (VIDEO)

Official Still of Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith in HBO's biopic
Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith in HBO’s biopic (Courtesy: HBO)

Queen Latifah stars as legendary blues singer Bessie Smith in the HBO Films drama “Bessie,” which is directed by Dee Rees, from a screenplay written by Rees, Christopher Cleveland & Bettina Gilois.

With a story by Rees and Horton Foote, the film focuses on Smith’s transformation from a struggling young singer into “The Empress of the Blues,” one of the most successful recording artists of the 1920s.

HBO has announced its movie will debut on Saturday, May 16 at 8PM.

The cast includes Michael Kenneth Williams as Bessie’s husband, Jack; Khandi Alexander as Bessie’s older sister, Viola; Mike Epps as Richard, a bootlegger and romantic interest; Tika Sumpter as Lucille, a performer and romantic interest; Tory Kittles as Bessie’s older brother, Clarence; Oliver Platt as famed photographer and writer Carl Van Vechten; Bryan Greenberg as renowned record producer and music critic John Hammond; with Charles S. Dutton as Ma Rainey’s husband, William “Pa” Rainey; and Mo’Nique as blues legend Ma Rainey.

The film will offer an intimate look at the determined woman whose immense talent and love for music took her from anonymity in the rough-and-tumble world of vaudeville to the 1920s blues scene and international fame, capturing her professional highs and personal lows, and ultimate legend.

Described by HBO as a labor of love for the filmmakers, “Bessie” has been 22 years in the making. The first draft was written by playwright Horton Foote. Queen Latifah was approached by producers Richard and Lili Fini Zanuck to take on the role of Bessie when she was just launching her acting career. She eventually came on board as an executive producer, along with producing partner Shakim Compere.

Director Dee Rees caught HBO’s attention with the buzz around her award-winning film, “Pariah.”

Says Latifah, “I have been excited about this project since the very beginning. When HBO got involved, we were thrilled and we worked together to make something that would capture Bessie’s life honestly and respectfully.”

Watch the telepic’s first full-length trailer below:

original article by Tambay A. Obenson via blogs.indiewire.com

Mo’Nique & Khandi Alexander Join Queen Latifah in HBO Films’ Bessie Smith Biopic

khandi6moniqueMo’Nique (Precious) and Khandi Alexander (Scandal) will co-star opposite Queen Latifah in Bessie, HBO’s film about iconic blues singer Bessie Smith (Queen Latifah).

Written and directed by Dee Rees based on the life story of Smith, the project chronicles how Smith overcame her tempestuous personal life to become one of the most acclaimed performing and recording artists of the 1920s and ’30s, earning the nickname Empress of the Blues.

Mo’Nique will play Ma Rainey, one of the first professional blues singers billed as The Mother of the Blues. Ma Rainey (born Gertrude hbofilmsPridgett) was already well known when she met then-young Bessie. According to a popular story, which has been disputed, Rainey kidnapped Smith, making her join the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, and teaching her to sing the blues.

Alexander will play Bessie’s older sister, Viola. By the time Bessie was nine, both of her parents and one brother had died, with Viola taking care of her siblings. Bessie is produced by HBO Films in association with Queen Latifah and Shakim Compere’s Flavor Unit Entertainment and Lili and the late Richard Zanuck’s the Zanuck Co., with Lili Fini Zanuck, Queen Latifah, Shakim Compere, Shelby Stone and Randi Michel serving as executive producer and Richard Zanuck also getting a posthumous exec producer credit.

article by Nellie Andreeva via deadline.com