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

By | Thursday May 22, 2014 @ 7:47am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

khandi6moniqueEXCLUSIVE: Mo’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.

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Queen Latifah To Play Blues Icon Bessie Smith In HBO Films Biopic From Dee Rees, Lili & Richard Zanuck

By | Thursday May 1, 2014 @ 12:15pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Queen Latifah Bessie Smith MoviebetsysmithHBO has greenlighted its next high-profile longform project, a film about iconic blues singer Bessie Smith who will be portrayed by Queen Latifah. Written and directed by Dee Rees, the filmmaker behind the Sundance- and Indie Spirit Award-winning Pariah, the untitled film 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 hbofilmsnickname Empress of the Blues. The project, produced by HBO Films in association with Queen Latifah and Shakim Compere’s Flavor Unit Entertainment and Lili and Richard Zanuck’s the Zanuck Company, is based on the life story of Smith and the biography Bessie written by Chris Albertson. The Oscar-winning duo of Lili Fini Zanuck and Richard Zanuck executive produce with Queen Latifah, Shakim Compere, Shelby Stone and Randi Michel, while Hallie Foote serves as co-executive producer and Ron Schmidt as producer.

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