Fox Searchlight Pictures announced today that principal photography for the timeless holiday musical drama BLACK NATIVITY began on January 29th in New York. The film stars Academy Award® winner Forest Whitaker (THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND), Academy Award® nominee Angela Bassett (WHATS LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT), and Academy Award® and Grammy® winner Jennifer Hudson (DREAMGIRLS), along with actor and Grammy® nominee Tyrese Gibson (FAST FIVE), and RCA recording artist Jacob Latimore. Additional cast includes Grammy® nominee Nas and Grammy® nominee Luke James. Kasi Lemmons (EVES BAYOU, TALK TO ME) directs from a screenplay she wrote based on the celebrated play of the same title written by American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist Langston Hughes. The music for BLACK NATIVITY will feature original lyrics and arrangements from Grammy® winning singer, songwriter and record producer Raphael Saadiq. The film is produced by William Horbergs Wonderful Films, and Trudie Styler and Celine Rattrays Maven Pictures, and will be financed, marketed and released worldwide by Fox Searchlight Pictures.
The Black Nativity story has been an integral part of American theatre and culture since 1961 and it remains a significant work today with productions staged each year all across the nation, said Claudia Lewis, President of Production, Fox Searchlight Pictures. We are elated to bring a contemporary version of this timeless work to the big screen under the direction of Kasi Lemmons and with a tremendously talented cast.
Black Nativity has a been a part of my life for many years and I am so excited to be teaming up with Fox Searchlight to bring this unifying and transformative experience to the movies, said writer/director Kasi Lemmons. This is a universal story of faith and family, a marker of our times, and an endearing Christmas tale, infused with music from hip-hop to R&B to gospel.
In a contemporary adaptation of Langston Hughes celebrated play, BLACK NATIVITY follows Langston (JACOB LATIMORE), a street-wise teen from Baltimore raised by a single mother, as he journeys to New York City to spend the Christmas holiday with his estranged relatives Reverend Cornell and Aretha Cobbs (FOREST WHITAKER and ANGELA BASSETT). Unwilling to live by the imposing Reverend Cobbs rules, a frustrated Langston is determined to return home to his mother, Naima (JENNIFER HUDSON). Langston embarks on a surprising and inspirational journey and along with new friends, and a little divine intervention, he discovers the true meaning of faith, healing, and family. Zola Mashariki, Senior Vice President of Production, along with Director of Production Richard Gold and Creative Executive Taylor Friedman are overseeing the project for Fox Searchlight Pictures.
Forest Whitaker received the Academy Award® and Golden Globe® for his performance in THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND, and his critically acclaimed body of work includes PLATOON, THE CRYING GAME, GHOST DOG: THE WAY OF THE SAMURAI, PANIC ROOM, THE GREAT DEBATERS, as well as roles on the television series E.R. and The Shield. Angela Bassett received the Golden Globe® and an Academy Award® nomination for her performance in WHATS LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT, and her critically acclaimed body of work includes MALCOLM X, WAITING TO EXHALE, AKEELAH AND THE BEE, NOTORIOUS, and the Broadway production of The Mountaintop. Academy Award® and Golden Globe® winner Jennifer Hudson launched her film career with her critically acclaimed debut performance in DREAMGIRLS, and has since appeared in films like SEX AND THE CITY and THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES. She can also be seen in a guest starring arc in the second season of the hit NBC television series Smash. Tyrese Gibson is a Grammy® nominated R&B singer and actor, best known for his roles in the TRANSFORMERS franchise, as well as a noted author and former international model.
Kasi Lemmons has written and directed three feature films including her award-winning directorial debut EVES BAYOU, for which she received the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature and the National Board of Reviews Outstanding Directorial Debut Award. Lemmons other films include THE CAVEMANS VALENTINE, and TALK TO ME, for which she received an NAACP Image Award© for Outstanding Direction. Prior to directing, Lemmons began her career as an actress appearing in films such as THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, THE FIVE HEARTBEATS, and SCHOOL DAZE.
BLACK NATIVITY is produced by William Horberg (COLD MOUNTAIN, THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY) and Celine Rattray (THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, BERNIE).
Black Nativity debuted off-Broadway at the 41st Street Theatre on December 11th, 1961. Penned by Langston Hughes, the celebrated poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist who was a central figure during the Harlem Renaissance, Black Nativity opened to rave reviews. It has been in continuous production across the nation with theatre companies, churches, college campuses and more for over 50 years.