Rita Marley to produce Bob Marley biopic


CORRECTED 4:19 p.m. PT March 3

NEW YORK -- Rita Marley is executive producing the first-ever biopic of her late husband Bob Marley, and if she has it her way, the reggae icon's daughter-in-law Lauryn Hill will portray her onscreen.

The Weinstein Co. will produce and distribute a big-screen version of her 2004 autobiography "No Woman No Cry: My Life With Bob Marley," a chronicle of the musician's childhood and their tumultuous 15-year marriage through his death from cancer in 1981.

"Lauryn would be ideal [to play me]" said Marley. Her husband's son with Janet Hunt, Rohan, is married to the troubled singer, who largely disappeared from the music scene after her acclaimed 1998 debut solo album. "She sees my life as her life." Hill will vet the adaptation currently being written by Lizzie Borden ("Working Girls"), who is down in Jamaica completing the script.

The untitled project from producer Rudy Langlais ("The Hurricane") is tentatively set to begin filming early next year with a projected late 2009 release date. Langlais said the film will be an "epic romance," including the Marleys' life and the assassination attempt on the couple. "It's miraculous that Rita is still here after being shot in the head," he says. The singer had 13 children, including several from extramarital affairs.

At least some of the project will be filmed in Jamaica, though other locations will be used to take advantage of tax rebates. The feature could arrive before Martin Scorsese's authorized feature documentary on the performer, set for release on what would be Marley's 65th birthday, Feb. 6, 2010.

The musician will be played by two actors, one portraying him at age 15 and another as an adult, with the option of the original songs, covers sung by an actor or a "Ray"-style blend of the two all possible for the soundtrack.

Marley says her grandson Stefan is "the spitting image" of the singer and would be perfect for the role. Langlais adds that while the project will not necessarily be star-driven, all casting decisions will be made late in the year.

TWC's Ben Famiglietti and Michael Cole pursued the project for a year and will oversee it for the studio.

Marley plans to be on the set every day. "Every inch of me is in there," she says, "and I don't want a fairy tale or Cinderella story."