Will Tupac and N.W.A. Biopics Battle It Out in Theaters?

Tupac Shakur, left, and N.W.A.

Universal and Morgan Creek are each prepping films about the hip-hop icons that could be released around the same time.

This story first appeared in the March 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Is a new rap rivalry brewing? Universal and Morgan Creek are each prepping films about hip-hop icons, with the former's Straight Outta Compton -- about trailblazing group N.W.A.'s rise to fame -- poised to be first out of the gate. Sources say Universal has begun holding open casting calls in downtown Los Angeles and is close to greenlighting the F. Gary Gray-helmed film.

STORY: John Singleton to Direct Tupac Shakur Biopic

But on its heels is Morgan Creek's untitled biopic of late rapper/actor Tupac Shakur. John Singleton, who closed a deal in February to direct, is writing a new draft of the script and hopes to begin production in June or July. With the two projects circling the tarmac simultaneously, will there be a release date collision? The Tupac biopic's Randall Emmett, whose Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films is co-financing and producing, says there's enough room in the market for both, since they cover different time periods. Straight Outta Compton kicks off in the late 1980s and traces the early careers of Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and the late Eazy-E, who died in 1995 due to AIDS-related causes. The untitled Tupac pic mostly covers the early 1990s, when Shakur became a platinum-selling artist. He was gunned down in a car in Las Vegas in 1996 in a still-unsolved murder.

"Both are culturally important," says Emmett. "Both are epic in nature with the potential for very wide audiences." And with music rights secured for both films, each should boast a killer soundtrack as well.

E-mail: Tatiana.Siegel@THR.com
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