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16
3 YEARS

How the Tupac Shakur Biopic Came Back to Life

Tupac Shakur
Paramount

For two years, it seemed the biopic of the slain rapper Tupac Shakur had met a similar untimely death. Long in development at production outfit Morgan Creek, the company thought it had struck a deal with Afeni Shakur-Davis, Tupac's mother, whose Amaru Entertainment was demanding broad creative approval before handing over the necessary life and music rights. 

But in February 2009, Morgan Creek abruptly sued Amaru, claiming Shakur-Davis had closed a deal but "instead attempted to use the contract as a floor to pursue further negotiations."

Amaru quickly hired Hollywood litigator Skip Miller and countersued, arguing that there was no legally binding agreement and that Morgan Creek and its topper, James Robinson, were interfering with Shakur-Davis' negotiations with other studios, including Fox and Paramount, to make the movie. The project then entered litigation purgatory: Depositions were taken, lengthy motions were filed, and hundreds of thousands were spent preparing for a scheduled Feb. 15 trial to determine whether Morgan Creek had the right to make the movie.

Behind the scenes, lawyers for both sides were trying to convince Shakur-Davis -- known as being especially protective of her son's legacy -- that a settlement would benefit both sides. Morgan Creek, after all, was one of the few companies willing to make a deal, given her required creative input.

On the eve of the trial, cooler heads prevailed. Sources say Shakur-Davis sat down with director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) and agreed with his vision of the film. A deal was soon negotiated that allows Morgan Creek to make the movie, with Shakur-Davis receiving an undisclosed flat fee, a chunk of the backend and an executive producer credit. The studio said Feb. 10 that the task of casting Shakur would begin immediately, with a shoot planned for late spring and Universal handling the film's release.

"This is certainly a better result for everyone involved," Miller says.