Who Should Play Tupac?

Getty Images Tupac Shakur

Note: Yesterday, Vulture reported that director Antoine Fuqua had left the long-in-development Tupac Shakur biopic, in part because he was having trouble finding an actor to play Shakur. Now, John Singleton is negotiating to direct and the casting search (frantically) continues.

October 13, 2011

John Singleton
1991 Furious Styles Lane
South Central Los Angeles, CA 90001

Dear John,

First off, let me say that I’m flattered. When I opened your letter, the last thing I expected was an offer to play the role of Tupac Shakur. While it is an honor to have been considered, there are a few things preventing me from truly doing the role justice.

1) Unless there’s a way to prevent tears from running and snot from pouring from one’s nose, there’s no way I can do anything “Brenda’s Got a Baby”-related. Sorry.

2) Tupac dated Kidada Jones, daughter of Quincy. Although an actress would be playing her, it wouldn’t feel right pretending to be in love with her, because of my “are we together/are we not together” history with her sister, Rashida. Apologies.

3) Tupac isn’t a fan of the project, which is awkward for me because he’s been crashing on my air mattress since February. You understand, right?

I know this isn’t what you want to hear, John, but hope is not lost. I want to help you in your search for the perfect Tupac portrayer and I’m pretty sure I can point you in the right direction.

Historically, the search for a blactor to play a famous Black man has been a pretty easy task. “Denzel”, I think they call it. While it would be foolish to say Mr. Washington couldn’t pull off a convincing West Coast early-20s rapper with a temper and a Black Panther for a mother, you could do much better. Blasphemy, I know, but it’s true. Some others that might be considered, but need to be passed on:

Donald Glover (Not convinced he can grow a mustache.)
Derek Luke (Played Puffy Daddy in Notorious. Too soon.)
Anthony Mackie (Already played Tupac in Notorious. Won’t work again.)
Kid Cudi (Looks too much like Anthony Mackie.)
Ryan Gosling (Busy)

I know these are some of your favorite blactors, John, but don’t be discouraged. I have three young men in mind who — I guarantee — are not on your radar, but if contacted, will drop everything they are doing to take the coveted Tupac role. And they will do the role justice. And you will win an Oscar. And then we’ll be rich.

3. Lil B

  • Both are from California.
  • Both have nose rings.
  • Both have twenty-plus tattoos.
  • Both can rap list “rapper” as their occupation on the Census.
  • Both thrive on shock factor.
  • Both are authors.

Those are just a few of the similarities between Lil B and Tupac Shakur. The Based God, as he’s commonly referred to, is such a puzzling creature, one would have to assume he would go Daniel Day on your cast and crew, never breaking character, even years after the film is released. Getting him on board would not be difficult, seeing as that all he does is release semi-lengthy mixtapes and make YouTube videos on a Flip Cam all day. Only drawback: he might be a mirage.

2. Ryan Gosling
So I made a mistake earlier. Gosling isn’t busy. He’s free and is eager to expand his acting credentials (which is code for “eager to see how much he can get away with before the buzz goes away”). Obviously when you look at Gosling, your initial reaction is “He’s from Canada. There’s no way a foreigner can play Tupac”. Valid concern, John, but I assure you Gosling can do it. They guy has played a druggie teacher, a neo-Nazi, a Ken doll-esque ladies man, a driver, and a member of an integrated high school football team. The obvious next step is a black rapper. You should take this one very seriously. Only drawback: He has a DUI.

1. Ja Rule

From Urban Dictionary.

    Ja Rule”: A seemingly unintelligent “gangsta rapper” … suffice to say a Tupac wannabe. This can be seen in the type and position of the tatoos on his body, and his hair style, among other things. Thinks he is a really good rapper and all-round tough guy, but then again has been accused of taking too much ecstasy, looking like a ‘peanut-man’, singing and acting like a trick, and of course allowing himself to be extorted…Twice. Also known to have really rubbish flows. Therefore doesn’t really qualify as a rapper, let alone a gangsta rapper, especially if he keeps having an air around him of one who is the greatest. A status which as the general consensus of reality goes, he is NOWHERE close to reaching.

He already thinks he’s Tupac. He doesn’t even have to get into character, because his day-to-day being is already a caractiture of Tupac. It’s almost too easy, John. He’s such a student of Tupac, he’s probably already read the script and memorized his lines, while fully aware that the likelihood of anyone calling him for this part is slim. Make Ja’s day, John. Call him up. Tell him you want him to play Tupac. Tell him “Half Past Deadmore like Half Past Genius.” Yeah, I think he’ll like that.

I hope I have been of some assistance to you, John. I wish you the best in the making of this movie and should you pick one of the three I suggested, feel free to comp me a flight out to LA for the premier. And if you ever make a biopic about Sammy Davis, Jr., I promise I won’t let you down.


Rembert Browne

Filed Under: Grantland Studios, Antoine Fuqua, Movies, Music

Rembert Browne is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ rembert