Zoe Saldana to Play Nina Simone in Biopic NINA; Jake Gyllenhaal to Star in MISSISSIPPI GRIND

     August 15, 2012

Two pieces of casting to report:

  • Zoe Saldana will play legendary jazz vocalist/pianist Nina Simone in the biopic Nina, written and directed by Cynthia Mort (Tell Me You Love Me).
  • Jake Gyllenhaal signed on to star in Mississippi Grind, a gambling drama written and directed by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden (It’s Kind of a Funny Story).

Hit the jump for details on both projects.

nina simone movieMary J. Blige was originally attached to play Simone, but according to THR, had to move on as funding issues held up production.  Mort settled the funding and landed Saldana in time to start shooting in Los Angeles in October.  David Oyelowo co-stars as Simone’s manager, Clifton Henderson.

I like Saldana and love Simone, but this does not immediately strike me as a good match of actress and role.  I cannot picture Saldana’s angelic face producing Simone’s guttural vocals.  (I tried to find a clip of Saldana singing, and only found this nonsense.)  So I am skeptical, but I will hope for the best—that Mort and Saldana can craft a drastic enough transformation to do Simone justice.

THR provides the logline for Missisippi Grind:

“The story centers on a down-on-his-luck gambler facing crushing debt who teams up with a younger gambling addict (Gyllenhaal) in an attempt to change his luck. The two set off on a road trip through the South with visions of winning back what has been lost.”

The lead role is described as a “fortysomething.”  Jamie Patricof, Lynette Howell, and John Lesher will produce Mississippi Grind for a budget of less than $10 million.

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