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In today’s movie bits round up, director John Singleton talks directing an episode of “Empire” and why the Tupac biopic has come to halt. Also, Queen Latifah reveals the first sneak peek at the Bessie Smith biopic & Furious 7 is doing serious numbers internationally. Get all the deets inside…..

Famed director John Singleton chopped it up with XXL to dish on his current television and movie projects, namely the FOX hit series “Empire” and the Tupac biopic. The Boyz N The Hood & Baby Boy director opened up about what it was like to direct an episode of the highly popular hip hopera and why the Tupac biopic is being put on hold.

In the interview, John reveals working on “Empire” marked the first time he has entered into the drama television series realm. He also revealed why the Tupac biopic has come to halt and what needs to be done to preserve Pac’s legacy.

Below are the highlights:

I wanted to talk about some of your most recent work. The new Fox show Empire, you worked on an episode, your first time working on a TV series.
John Singleton: I worked on the fifth episode. The one where the [Jussie Smollet, who plays one of Terrence Howard’s sons] was robbed in the studio and [Yazz] made the video for “Drip Drop.” DeRay Davis was in it and you’ll notice the drive-by in it, that was me.

That was your first time working on a drama TV series right?
My first time with it, period.

So how was it working on Empire? Did you connect with that from your relationship with Taraji P Henson from working on Baby Boy?
Yeah, it was through Taraji. She told me that they were thinking about doing it. Then [show creator] Lee Daniels called me up and he said that he had an episode that he thought would be interesting if I directed it instead of him. Lee and I are friends from way back, so I just said, “Yeah, okay. I’ll do it.” I was just sitting on my yacht and I was on my phone. So I was like, “Let’s go.” And, you know, it’s all friends and family on that show, so.

Another thing that you’ve been working on that people are really excited about is the Tupac biopic. Are you still working on that?
Well, we’re putting it on hold for right now. I’m putting my involvement on hold right now because we’re trying to figure out some things. I got a script and I got the blessings from his family. We’ll see. I’m putting it on hold until it’s right. We’ve got to get it right.

And in terms of getting it right, you’re one of the best people to do it since you worked with Tupac.
I know. The thing about it is, not just that I worked with ‘Pac, but we grew up in a similar environment. Where we’re from, you can’t really understand Tupac unless you grew up Black born in America. What he stood for is far beyond the music that he made. It’s what he stood for as a Black man in America. He was one of those people who had so much heart they could never back down. That’s lacking in a lot of people right now. Especially a lot of MCs. A lot of people are really going for the okie doke, they’re really not trying to say anything in their music. You can dance and party to have stuff going on but you know at a certain time when you look around you, you gotta say, “What’s going on with my people? Can I do something from the heart to elevate my people?” He was about that. It was a very introspective virus.

How does it feel to be involved in making the Tupac biopic?
It’s a very intimidating because, like I said, you just want to get it right. I think the picture is not going to be good unless it’s offensive to some people. So, whenever you make a movie, you always have different elements that people have their say about. But when I’m making my movies, John Singleton movies, it’s really just my voice. So I can’t be listening to all the other suggestions of all these other people and shit. So we’re not going to pull the trigger on that until it’s right. If somebody else wants to do something different then they can do something different. But if it’s going to be right, it’s going to be right. It’s going to be something that potentially adorns ‘Pac’s legacy.

Well, let’s hope he can “get it right” soon because we are SO here for a Tupac biopic…done correctly.

In other movie news….

Television host, singer, rapper and Golden Globe winning actress Queen Latifah is set to star as legendary blues singer Bessie Smith in an HBO biopic chronicling the icon’s life. And today, the first full length trailer of the upcoming flick has surfaced.

Written and directed by filmmaker Dee Rees, the biopic with follow Bessie’s journey from a struggling blue songstress into the “The Empress of the Blues,” becoming one of the most successful recording artists of the 1920s.

The cast includes “Boardwalk Empire” star Michael K. Williams (as Bessie’s husband named Jack), Academy Award winner MoNique (as blues legend Ma Rainey), “Scandal” star Khandi Alexander (as Bessie’s older sister named Viola), comedian/actor Mike Epps (a bootlegger and love interest named Randy), “The Have and the Have Nots” actress Tika Sumpter (a performer and romantic interest named Lucille), “True Detective” star Tory Kittles (Bessie’s older brother, Clarence) and “Longmire” actor Charles S. Dutton (as Ma Rainey’s husband, William “Pa” Rainey).

Bessie is scheduled to premiere Saturday, May 16 at 8pm ET on HBO. In the meantime, peep the trailer above.

And at the box office….

Action thriller Furious 7 debuted two days ago. And it’s already off to a “fast and furious” start at the box office.

According to Deadline, the new action film as already raked in $60M in two …read more

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