Misty Copeland is making the leap — or maybe a grand jeté — to the big screen. The prima ballerina has nabbed a role in Disney‘s forthcoming “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” movie. Copeland posted a picture of the script on her Instagram account with the caption: “I’m thrilled to be a part of this amazing project with Disney and the wonderful Lasse Hallstrom. #TheNutcracker #MoreToCome.”
The studio announced the live-action film back in March and Hallstrom is set to direct.
Copeland has been lauded for breaking down barriers as an African-American dancer and is the subject of Nelson George‘s 2015 documentary “A Ballerina’s Tale.” For the upcoming film, she reportedly will appear as the lead ballerina in the “Nutcracker’s” only dance scene.
Cassandra Freeman (Inside Man, Single Ladies), Tracie Thoms (Cold Case, Rent), Pauletta Washington (Wilma), Daniel Bellomy, Nic Few (Major Crimes, The Exes), and Demarius Mack (Real Husbands Of Hollywood) have been cast in Lifetime original movie with the working title of The Real MVP: The Wanda Pratt Story, based on the life of NBA star Kevin Durant’s mom. Queen Latifah and Shakim Compere’s Flavor Unit are executive producers. Production is currently underway in Vancouver on the film, which will bow on Mother’s Day, Sunday May 8, on Lifetime. A&E Studios is producing.
The film tells the true story of Pratt, a single mom who struggled and sacrificed to raise her two sons, Tony and Kevin. When he was named 2014’s NBA Most Valuable Player, Kevin Durant dedicated his speech to Wanda, naming her “the real MVP” for all of her sacrifices that allowed him to pursue his dreams. It was a moving moment (see it by clicking here).
Pratt and Shelby Stone (Bessie) also executive produce the movie, and Gina Ford and Brynee Baylor are co-executive producers.
Freeman stars as Wanda, Thoms as her best friend and confidante, and Washington will play her mother Barbara. The adult Kevin and Tony will be played by Bellomy and Few, respectively, and Mack plays young Tony. The film is directed by Nelson George (Life Support, A Ballerina’s Tale) and written by Yolonda Lawrence (Witches Of East End) and Ligiah Villalobos (Ed).
Hip-hop icon Grandmaster Flash is set as an associate producer and adviser on The Get Down, Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming Netflix series about the 1970 NYC music scene and the birth of rap. “I can’t tell you just how much joy and great spirit we are getting from working with some of the founding fathers of the form,” Luhrmann said in a statement. “Not only in music, dance and graffiti but the culture of the time in general. The whole team is absolutely thrilled to have Grandmaster Flash on board.” Netflix also said today that newcomer Mamoudou Athie will play the DJ legend on the show (see photo above). Best known to mainstream audiences for the 1982’s “The Message,” Grandmaster Flash emerged from the ’70s Bronx scene along with fellow DJs Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa as a pioneer of the fledgling genre. “Flash developed a host of specific techniques that allowed DJs to move seamlessly from one break beat to another,” said author-journalist Nelson George, part of The Get Down writing team. “Flash’s innovations, developed in his Bronx apartment bedroom, are the bedrock of club spinning, even in the age of (vinyl emulation program) Serato.”
Flash’s involvement with Get Down follows VH1’s announcement last month of The Breaks, an original movie and potential backdoor pilot about the 1990s NYC hip-hop scene. Gang Starr’s DJ Premier will serve as music producer for that project, becoming the latest music great to oversee soundtracks for TV series including Timbaland on Fox’s Empire and T Bone Burnett on ABC’s Nashville.
It’s just the kind of movie clip YouTube was made for. In the 1965 Frankie Avalon vehicle,“Ski Party,” James Brownand his backing vocal group, the Famous Flames, enter a ski lodge after rescuing a frozen reveler. Resplendent in a white-and-red sweater, tight black slacks, black pointy-toed shoes and a regal pompadour, Brown performs “I Got You (I Feel Good),” giving the lily-white crowd of clapping skiers a taste of the showmanship that had made him a star on the so-called “chitlin circuit” among blacks. Even in a movie as disposable as “Ski Party,” Brown turned a corny scene into genuine entertainment.
In the biopic “Get On Up,” opening Friday, the filmmakers recreate this moment, trying to see it from Brown’s point of view. While he glides through his steps, we see slow-motion shots of the listeners as if they were creatures from another, whiter planet, one Brown is reluctantly visiting in hopes of reaching a wider audience. In that scene, Brown dances off the set. In the new film, he does a split but doesn’t come up, apparently having ripped his pants. The new moment is slightly comic but undercuts Brown’s mastery.
Depicting James Brown on screen has always been a seductive proposition. As one of the greatest stage performers of the 20th century, he has inspired documentarians, playwrights, comedians and other artists who see the outlines of his greatness. But capturing the man inside, and the meaning of his life, is a tricky business.
There was a fluidity to his identity that was reflected in his many stage nicknames: Mr. Dynamite, the hardest working man in show business, Soul Brother No. 1, the Godfather of Soul and the Original Disco Man, as he variously billed himself. All enduring pop stars have the ability to shift with the culture, but Brown’s moves — from staunch integrationist to proto-black nationalist and back, from civil rights role model to wife beater, from disciplined bandleader to drug addict — suggest an inner turmoil that belied his outer confidence. Shortly after his death, I helped edit a collection of articles that spanned Brown’s long career, and in reading the pieces was struck by how many journalists saw the contours of the man but struggled to truly penetrate his psyche. With a feature film about to arrive and a coming documentary, it’s time to take stock of this imposing figure.
Brown, who died on Christmas Day 2006, began his career in the ’50s under the spell of Little Richard and ended it as a major influence on current singer-dancers like Usher and Chris Brown. Michael Jackson and Prince, of course, were acolytes. Reared on gospel, blues and jazz, Brown was a dominant force in the soul ’60s, created funk, inspired disco and laid hip-hop’s foundation with his beats.
As important as Brown was on vinyl, his stage show and personality are legendary: Tilting a mike stand far forward and, before it hit the stage, pulling it back via the cord. Dropping into and rising out of splits. Feigning exhaustion and donning a regal cape before returning to sing again. Executing every new dance from the ’60s to the ’80s with deft steps and body control made Brown a dominant figure during an explosive era for pop music.