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  • Fox Searchlight Readies Notorious B.I.G. Biopic

    The life of slain rapper Notorious B.I.G. is getting the big-screen treatment. Fox Searchlight, which has secured B.I.G.'s life rights, has tapped Cheo Hodari Coker to write the biopic and is in negotiations with Antoine Fuqua to direct. Producing are B.I.G.'s mother, Voletta Wallace, and his former managers Wayne Barrow and Mark Pitts.

    Wallace, then taking the moniker Biggie Smalls because of his more than 6-foot, 400-pound frame before settling on alias Notorious B.I.G., the rapper's rise was meteoric. He went from a Brooklyn crack dealer to East Coast hip-hop sensation, helping establish Sean "P. Diddy" Combs' Bad Boy label as a hip-hop presence and aiding artists like Lil' Kim and wife Faith Evans.
    B.I.G. was involved in a very public feud with West Coast rapper Tupac Shakur, who was gunned down in a Las Vegas drive-by in late 1996. In March 1997, B.I.G. was shot to death as he was leaving a Vibe party at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.

    B.I.G.'s murder has never been solved. In 2002, Evans and Wallace filed a civil suit against the LAPD and the City of Los Angeles, alleging that police were involved. A mistrial was declared earlier this month, and a new trial is expected.

    Barrow said the trio had been trying to get a film off the ground for the last five years.

    "People wanted to give us check and do a film that they wanted to do, but Searchlight gave us the opportunity to really be able to come in and tell the story the way it was supposed to be told," Barrow said. "It's not just a hip-hop film, it's a film of life and a film of love. We didn't want to sell our souls to the devil, so to speak, just to get a check. The story is too important, not just to us but to hip-hop."

    Barrow said he hoped to be in production early next year, and the most challenging aspect of the film will be casting.

    "The most important element to casting B.I.G. is what we consider the swagger," Barrow said. "They have to have the element of the man and be able to capture the essence of who he was and his maneuvering, his relishings of life. You can't instill this in an individual -- you just have to have it."

    Coker has written for Vibe, the Los Angeles Times and Premiere and was the last person to interview B.I.G. before his death. He is the author of "Unbelievable: The Life, Death, and Afterlife of the Notorious B.I.G." The biopic will not be based on the book, and Coker will work closely with the Wallace family to write the screenplay.

    Coker is also no stranger to Hollywood or biopics. He did a rewrite on a Bob Marley biopic at Warners and is working on an untitled thriller for Fuqua.

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