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Tupac Shakur biopic 'All Eyez on Me' will arrive on late rapper's birthday

The long-awaited Tupac Shakur biopic finally has a release date. Morgan Creek Productions and Lionsgate’s Summit Entertainment said Tuesday that “All Eyez on Me” would arrive in theaters on June 16, on what would have been the slain rapper’s 46th birthday. 

The release of “All Eyez on Me” will follow Shakur’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April. 

Filmed last year in Atlanta, the movie stars Demetrius Shipp Jr. as the rapper, as well as Danai Gurira, Kat Graham, Hill Harper, Lauren Cohan and Jamie Hector.

Jamal Woolard will reprise his role as the late Notorious B.I.G., a part he first played in the 2009 biopic about Shakur’s friend-turned-rival, “Notorious.” 

“All Eyez on Me” is named after the rapper’s hit fourth album — his first on the controversial Death Row label, and one of the highest-selling rap albums of all time.

Although Shakur's life had been well mined through various books and documentaries, including the 2003 film "Tupac: Resurrection" and 2002's "Biggie & Tupac" about his rivalry with the Notorious B.I.G., getting a biopic to the big screen has proven quite difficult. 

In 2011, Morgan Creek announced that it had teamed with Emmett Furla Oasis Films to co-finance and co-produce the film, with Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day,” “Tears of the Sun,” “Brooklyn’s Finest”) attached to direct, and launched an online casting call to find a lead to fill the shoes of the rapper with a complicated legacy.

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At the time of the casting call, a draft of the film chronicled Shakur’s rise as a rapper and actor, his legal troubles, his time at Death Row Records and and the 1996 drive-by shooting that claimed his life at age 25, which came at the height of the East Coast-West Coast rap rivalry. 

His slaying, like that of peer Christopher Wallace (a.k.a. Notorious B.I.G.), remains unsolved —  although theories make up one of hip-hop’s eeriest mythologies.

A legal battle between Morgan Creek and Shakur’s mother, Afeni, over creative control also added to the project's hold-ups -- both parties eventually settled, with Afeni serving as an executive producer on the film and granting rights for her son’s music catalog to be used in the movie. 

The picture then suffered another setback when Fuqua dropped out a few months later.

John Singleton was next to fill the director’s chair, signing on to rewrite, direct and produce the film in 2014. He had especially close ties with the late rapper, having directed him in 1993’s urban romantic drama “Poetic Justice” alongside Janet Jackson and planning for him to star in “Baby Boy” before his 1996 death. 

A little over a year later, however, Singleton was out and Carl Franklin (“Devil in a Blue Dress”) was in. Singleton criticized producers for not respecting Shakur’s legacy. 

"Real talk! The reason I am not making this picture is because the people involved aren't really respectful of the legacy of Tupac Amaru Shakur," Singleton wrote to his fans in a lengthy missive. "How you gonna make a movie about a man when you suing his mother to get the rights to tell his story?"

Adding to the drama, producers Emmett/Furla filed a $10-million lawsuit against Morgan Creek in late October, claiming the company had breached a co-production agreement by selecting a lead actor and setting a budget and production schedule without Emmett/Furla's approval.

Franklin quietly exited the project in late 2015, to be replaced by Benny Boom, who has directed music videos for a variety of A-list hip-hop and R&B stars. “All Eyez on Me” was then hit with another setback with the death of Afeni Shakur in May. 

The film is produced by James G. and David C. Robinson of Morgan Creek Productions, along with Program Pictures’ L.T. Hutton. Boom directed the film from a script by Ed Gonzalez and Jeremy Haft.

gerrick.kennedy@latimes.com

For more music news follow me on Twitter:@GerrickKennedy

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