INTERVIEW: 'All Eyez On Me' Biopic Writer Talks Movie, Its Backlash & More
By Isha Thorpe
June 20, 2017
On what would’ve been Tupac Shakur’s 46th birthday (June 16), his much-anticipated biopic, All Eyez On Me, was released in theaters.
Fans of the late rapper have been waiting over a year and a half for this movie. We’ve been seeing multiple trailers and reading insider details about the making of it. But, we eagerly wanted to finally watch it for ourselves. Now that the biopic is out, we can! Since Friday, people have been flocking to theaters to see the late MC come to life, once again, on the big screen.
Budding actor Demetrius Shipp Jr. portrayed Pac, while Kat Graham played Jada Pinkett Smith, Danai Jekesai Gurira played Pac’s mother, Afeni Shakur; Jamal Woolard starred as The Notorious B.I.G., Dominic Santana portrayed Suge Knight, and more. Behind the scenes, Jeremy Haft and Eddie Gonzalez wrote the biopic. Benny Boom directed the film, while L.T. Hutton produced it, as well.
Since its release many rappers and celebrities have felt very torn about the movie. For instance, Suge Knight, Snoop Dogg, Game and more have approved of the biopic, while 50 Cent and Jada Pinkett Smith have spoken out against it.
Nevertheless, All Eyez On Me’s opening sales have been quite impressive. Early predictions calculated that the biopic would earn between $17 million to $22 million its opening weekend. But, All Eyez On Me gained over $27 million during this timeframe, instead. That’s not too shabby for a project that was made with a $45 million budget, Variety reports.
iHeartRadio spoke with one of the co-writers of the movie, Eddie Gonzalez. During the conversation, we discussed the writing process for the movie, the actors who portrayed the roles, criticisms the movie has received and more.
Read iHeartRadio’s in-depth interview with All Eyez On Me co-writer Gonzalez below.
How was it working on the movie? What was the vibe on set?
It was an amazing vibe and it felt like a real family atmosphere. We were all -- whether it was the crew, whether it was the director, producer, actors, crafts services -- everyone knew that we were making a movie about something that was bigger than us and it was about this iconic figure. So, there was this great vibe that we were all on the same page and it was one of the most pleasant sets I've ever been on and I've been on a few sets.
What exactly made you decide to work on this project?
I wrote it with my partner Jeremy Haft. Our motivation to do this is one, as writers you want to take on interesting and compelling characters. Obviously those are the kind of movies you want to make and when we have the opportunity to work on this, we immediately jumped on it. Especially for me growing up, I was born in Compton and I grew up in neighboring Lynwood, California. And I grew up a huge hip hop fan, a big Public Enemy fan, N.W.A. fan, and of course a Tupac fan. So, the chance to bring him to life to the screen, I mean you would have to be an idiot to pass on a project like this.
So, from day one when we met with L.T. Hutton, who hired us, we all just clicked. I think he felt very comfortable with this story being in our hands and you know we worked on this three and a half years together to finally bring it to screen.
Were you at all scared or a little nervous because you knew the biopic was a big deal?
I wouldn't say scared. Nervous? Absolutely. There's tremendous pressure because what you want to do is you want to get it right. People have been waiting for this movie for years and the last thing you want to do is have all this anticipation and disappoint people. But, we took that as a challenge to make it something that we felt like we could walk down the street and be proud of our work and not be embarrassed by what's up on screen.
What are your thoughts about what John Singleton said about the movie?
He has his opinion. He was involved in the project at one point and I guess he had a certain vision for it. But, it wasn't the vision that Morgan Creek and L.T. Hutton and we all wanted to make.
How was it like actually seeing the scenes play out? For example, like when you actually saw Demetrius Shipp Jr. actually become Tupac?
It's interesting as a writer because in film, you're rarely on the set and Jeremy and I were very fortunate to be asked to be on the set. We were there for two months in Atlanta while we filmed. I think that when you see Demetrius, or Dominic, or Kat, getting up there and doing what they're doing; you just get such a rush from people saying your words and people bringing these stories, bringing this story to life. So, it's overall feeling excitement.
How did you research to write the different scenes in the movie? Did you talk to any family members?
When we started on the project, the first two months, we pretty much didn't write a word. We just sat and listened. We spent countless days with L.T. Hutton as L.T. knew Tupac. L.T. was a Death Row producer back in the day. So, you're just sitting there and you're like a sponge. You're just soaking up information from L.T. Then, we're doing research on the Internet. We're watching documentaries, we're reading transcripts of interviews with family members and non-family members like Money B.
Then, when we had a chance and we got closer to shooting, we had an opportunity to meet with Idi Amin, which was great. Idi can give us so much insight instead of speak information about Tupac. We spoke to Money B. He was amazing, [a] noble person. It was just so much valuable information and it helped shape the character. So, those were the people that we spoke to that gave us kind of the insight, things that you couldn't get from Wikipedia or Google or YouTube.
What did you love most about Tupac?
Oh wow (laughs), that's a great question. Well for me, obviously I'm a huge fan of lyrics. So, his lyrics are so deep and they have this real effect on you. Tupac, when he performed and if you listen to ‘Holla If You Hear Me,’ ‘I Aint Mad At Cha,’ ‘Brenda's Got A Baby,’ you listen to this stuff -- it is so deep it makes you think. It affected me personally because it's inspirational as a writer.
Was there ever a time where you finished the movie and you thought ‘I think Tupac would really enjoy his portrayal’?
We felt that. Absolutely. This movie in many ways is a love letter to his mom. And I think that at the end of the day, our goal is for people who knew him, to see this movie and say ‘Yeah, they got it right.’ And from what we know of people who knew him, people [who] were friends with him, the reaction we've seen from these guys, it just makes us feel even better about the decisions all of us made.
All Eyez On Me is now out in theaters.
Photo: CODE BLACK FILMS