Although Kasi Lemmons’ musical Black Nativity was scheduled to start production in New York this October, Fox Searchlight has put the picture on hold due to difficulty landing a male lead. The picture is based off of a Langston Hughes play that re-imagines traditional Christmas carols in a gospel style. Black Nativity was set to center on a young black teen who spends Christmas with the grandparents he’s never met: “Through his grandfather’s Christmas Eve sermon and a stylized, dream-sequence retelling of the classic Nativity story, he learns about the importance of faith and family.” What’s strange about this news is that Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) and Oscar nominee Angela Bassett (What’s Love Got to Do With It) are already set in supporting roles, yet top talent like Samuel L. Jackson and Laurence Fishburne have passed. More on this after the jump. [Update: We've updated this story with new information, which you can find after the jump.]
THR reports on the unfortunate news that the long-gestating Black Nativity has hit yet another roadblock. The article also calls out the fact that there is a shortlist of black actors that studios feel confident in offering leads to, one that includes Denzel Washington, Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Don Cheadle, Tyler Perry and Eddie Murphy. As the character was required to sing and appear old enough to be Hudson’s (31) father, the list dwindled even further. Hudson would play the mother of the teen while Bassett would play the grandmother. One would think Jackson, who was eyed to play the grandfather, was tailor-made for the role, especially after the fact that he’s previously worked with Lemmons on Eve’s Bayou. THR posits that perhaps Jackson’s salary demands and Searchlight’s hard bargain approach were an unpalatable combination. For what it’s worth, Searchlight insists that there was previously no October start date in place, citing shifting production dates.
Update: Fox Searchlight has informed us that the project hasn’t been “shelved”, and remains in active development. Additionally, since there was no firm start date, the movie hasn’t been “delayed”.