The producers bringing Tupac's only known script to the big screen are eyeing Derek Luke ("Friday Night Lights") or Rob Brown ("Coach Carter") for the role the rapper wrote for himself.
"It's tough because it's kind of a gritty role, but at the same time it's a really educated role, so it's going to take a good actor," said Jeff Bowler, who is co-producing "Live 2 Tell" through his Insomnia Media (see "Script Tupac Wrote About Drug Kingpin To Be Made Into Movie"). "I'm not saying those are the guys, but we definitely like those guys."
Bowler and partner Bret Saxon will also consider unknowns and have been inundated with interested actors since the movie was announced Tuesday.
"I received over 50 e-mails from actors, aspiring rappers, Broadway actors, from across the world wanting to send their music and head shot to me because Tupac had such an influence on their lives," Bowler said. "It's crazy how big Pac's legacy lives on today."
For the movie's other star role, Bowler and Saxon are tossing around even bigger names.
"It's the mentor role, who takes this guy under his wing and makes him this kind of drug kingpin. We like someone like Jamie Foxx or even Will Smith, who's never played [a role like that], he's always played the good guy," Bowler said. "This will be a really tough role for anybody, but I think we'll definitely cast a pretty big name. But there's a lot of great roles and I'm sure there are a lot of great young rappers out there that will probably fill this ensemble. You've got white drug dealers and gangsters, you've got Spanish, you've got black, you've got Asians in this."
Bowler was introduced to Tupac's "Live 2 Tell" script through video director Gobi, who was Tupac's producing partner and also worked as a producer on 2003's "Tupac: Resurrection." The script was intended to be part of a three-picture deal the rapper signed shortly before he was murdered in 1996 and has been held close by Gobi and Tupac's mother, Afeni Shakur, ever since.
"[Afeni Shakur] is very protective of the creative control area because she doesn't want this great urban crime saga — with a hardened redemption — turned into a comedy or anything foolish," Bowler said. "But creatively, we're all right on point with each other's thoughts on the story and we can't wait to get going."
When he first read the script, Bowler was surprised by how well-written it was, considering it was Tupac's first.
"You could shoot the script as is right now and you'd have a fantastic movie," Bowler said. "We'll probably have to have it trimmed up a little bit, but not doctored really in any way storywise at all. Seeing Tupac's words on paper — right from him, untouched — is pretty exciting."
Insomnia Media, along with executive producers Preston Holmes (associate producer of "Hustle & Flow") and Afeni Shakur, plans to start shooting "Live 2 Tell" in March, after all the roles are filled. For director, Craig Brewer ("Hustle & Flow") is at the top of their wish list.
"Preston is close friends with him and would love to work with him again, and I love Craig's work," Bowler said. "It's going to come down to scheduling."
Most important to the producers is doing justice to Tupac's words.
"We're absolutely honored," Bowler said. "I'm in my 30s, so I grew up listening to Tupac — I grew up on a farm in New England and his music transcended all the way out to there. So it's definitely global."
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