Fela Kuti Biopic Soldiers On, Without Steve McQueen or Focus Features

Issue 2 TOWN Mcqueen Ejofor Kuti Split - H 2014
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP; AP Photo/Laurent Rebours

Issue 2 TOWN Mcqueen Ejofor Kuti Split - H 2014

"12 Years a Slave's" Chiwetel Ejiofor would have played the iconic Nigerian singer, but "the movie is dead," its original director told THR -- yet its producer says former Focus chief James Schamus is reviving the pic.

This story first appeared in the Jan. 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Director Steve McQueen might appear to have the Midas touch when it comes to making films, but not everything he touches turns to gold. A few years ago, he began to develop a biopic about Nigerian musician Fela Kuti (his 12 Years a Slave star Chiwetel Ejiofor would play the lead) for Focus Features, along with producer Lydia Dean Pilcher (The Darjeeling Limited).

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When McQueen dropped out as director, he was replaced by Nigerian director Andrew Dosunmu. Still, he's credited as the main writer of the script. Yet when asked about it at the Palm Springs Film Festival Gala on Jan. 4, he told THR: "The movie is dead. They didn't have the money. It's just one of those things that happens in this business." True enough, the movie no longer is at Focus, but Dean Pilcher tells THR it's still a go: "James Schamus is doing a revise now. Steve may get a writing credit at the end of the day, or he might not."