From the beginning of its production, the Tupac Shakur biopic All Eyez On Me was marred by controversy and legal problems, leading many to think that the movie would never be made. Even when the movie was finally released on what would have been the rapper's 46th birthday, All Eyez On Me seems incapable of escaping a negative spotlight. To be specific, the movie about the real-life West Coast icon is now facing charges of plagiarism regarding characters in the film who may or may not have existed.
Tupac And All Eyez On Me's Lawsuit
As reported by Deadline, the biopic's producers studio Lionsgate and its production company, Morgan Creek, are being sued by journalist Kevin Powell. In his lawsuit, the former VIBE writer accused Lionsgate and Morgan Creek of copying the fictional characters he wrote while covering Tupac without giving him due credit.
During the '90s and at the height of Tupac's career, Powell created characters for his articles to mask the identities of his sources and interviewees, especially since Tupac was part of a heated rivalry against East Coast rapper, Biggie Smalls. Though unconfirmed, the rivalry is said to be the reason for Tupac's death in a drive-by shooting, as well as Biggie Smalls's demise in another drive-by shooting.
One of the many characters specified by Powell was "Nigel" (Cory Hardrict), a rapper in the movie. According to Powell, he hid one person's identity by creating a new, eccentric alias based on the real-life hip hop artist, Haitian Jack. This character was supposedly the basis for Nigel, and everything but the name Powell chose was used in All Eyez On Me.
Powell is currently demanding that the biopic be pulled out of theaters and that he receives a share of the profits as compensation for any damages done. Check out the legal statements regarding Nigel below.
"This made-up character of Nigel was the embellishment of a real-life character that was central to the narrative in Plaintiff’s articles. This made-up character was copied and pasted into Defendant’s film to play the same central character and role in the Infringing Work as he did in the Original Work."
Before All Eyez On Me entered pre-production, the rights to Tupac's story and his music were subject to a lengthy legal battle where Morgan Creek even tried to sue Tupac's mother, Afeni Shakur, for the rights. Morgan Creek itself then faced legal complaints when producers Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films learned that the former started production on the biopic without their blessing.
Even with the movie showing in theaters and enjoying an opening haul of $30 million, All Eyez On Me was subjected to further criticism. While rapper 50 Cent just didn't like the biopic in general, All Eyez On Me's original director John Singleton called the biopic he once developed a "debacle". Meanwhile, actress Jada Pinkett Smith felt personally attacked by the biopic, despite describing key performances by Kat Graham and Demetrius Shipp Jr. as "a beautiful job".
Smith's criticisms stem from the movie's misrepresentation of her relationship with Tupac, and how many real-life details were changed for the film. Smith went to Baltimore School for the Arts with Tupac, making All Eyez On Me all the more personal for her. If there's anyone who would know what was true and false in All Eyez On Me, it would be Tupac's close friend, Jada Pinkett Smith.
Following the success of the N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton, fans of rap music and culture were hoping that All Eyez On Me would be the spiritual successor to the sleeper hit of 2015 and the biopic that someone as irreplaceable as Tupac Shakur would deserve. Only time will tell if the Tupac biopic deserves such a low score, or whether it will be remembered as a misunderstood tribute to the man who changed the rap genre as a whole.
Will you be watching All Eyez On Me? Share your thoughts in the comments below.