Last week I told you about how Ice Cube’s son, O’Shea Jackson Jr. would be playing his father in Straight Outta Compton, the F. Gary Gray-directed biopic about NWA. There had been rumors that Dr. Dre’s son and Eazy E’s son were also in the mix, but now it appears they’ve been beaten out, by a Shakespearian actor and an unknown who had an incredible screen test, respectively. Clearly these rap amateurs haven’t been around Hollywood long enough to learn about a little thing called nepotism.
Less known is the classically-trained actor who is said to have won the role of Dre, Marcus Callender [pictured, below]. Although the alum of New York’s Shakespeare Lab at the Public Theater might be more familiar with Chekhov than Compton’s gang-plagued streets [HE BETTER LEARN TO HOLD CHEKHOV'S GUN SIDEWAYS! -Ed], he beat out a phalanx of would-be rappers (the Beats co-founder originally wanted Michael B. Jordan to play him, but the actor is about to take on a Fantastic Four reboot at Fox). Still, Callender has some screen credits, including the pilot for Steve Zaillian’s Criminal Justice on HBO, as well as bit parts in the CBS series Blue Bloods and Elementary.
Even more obscure is Jason Mitchell, who insiders say landed the role of Eazy-E after an out-of-the-park screen test. If his casting sticks, it will make for a great backstory, given that he is said to have no acting background and works in a kitchen. [HollywoodReporter]
UPDATE: Jason Mitchell’s agent directed me to his IMDB page to point out that he has actually had an agent for five years, as well as small parts in Contraband and Broken City, though he does actually work in a kitchen, in addition to rapping and acting. Apologies for the slight error (Hollywood Reporter’s).
All the principles – Dre, Ice Cube, and Eazy E’s widow Tomica Wright – had to sign off on the casting, and it sounds like they based their decision on actual ability to play the parts in question, which would be rarer than humility in Hollywood. If this had been a Fresh Prince biopic you just know Jaden Smith would be playing his dad and his sister would be Jazzy Jeff. Meanwhile, I’m told MC Ren will be portrayed by the Forever Alone meme.
As for the film, I assume it’s going to be just like Boyz in the Hood, only instead of getting gunned down on the eve of a football scholarship, the main guy becomes a headphone billionaire.
BANNER PICTURE CAPTION: KANSAS CITY – JUNE 1989: Rap group N.W.A. pose with rappers The D.O.C. and Laylaw from Above The Law (L-R standing: Laylaw, DJ Yella, Dr. Dre and The D.O.C. seated Ice Cube, Eazy-E and MC Ren)backstage at the Kemper Arena during their ‘Straight Outta Compton’ tour in June 1989 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)