All Eyez On Me the highly anticipated Tupac Shakur biopic is out in theaters today. The film which stars newcomer Demetrius Shipp, Jr. in the role of the prolific artist and activist shines a new light on the late legend who died at the age of 25 years old.
The film spans Pac’s early years in New York City through his tumultuous time at Death Row Records under the helm of the notorious Suge Knight. On the day of the film’s premiere at the 21st annual American Black Film Festival, EBONY.com chatted with Boom about his vision for the movie, why Shipp, Jr. was the perfect person to embody Pac and what he hopes people will take away from the film.
EBONY: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today Benny.
Benny Boom: Oh you’re welcome.
EBONY: You’ve been in the music industry for a long time, how did you approach this film in making sure that the biopic did Tupac Shakur’s legacy justice, and it really brought his legacy to life.
BB: The approach was, I wanted to make sure that the story was grounded in relationships. I think that’s the important thing because none of us…most of us who are watching the movie have never made albums or records nor have we gone to jail, or did all of the stuff that he’s done. But, the one thing that we can all connect to at the core are the relationships that we have with our parents, or our best friends, or somebody that we are in love with. So at the core of the film are these connections, Pac, and his relationships that he has through his life and how these relationships impact him and his decision-making process. His mother was a Black Panther and activist, and she affected his growth and his ideas, so when he becomes old enough, he makes decisions based on what his mother told him and what his stepfather told him. It really is that, and then on top of it’s Tupac, it’s about the music and the incredible life that he led.
EBONY: Wonderful. Now Demtrius Shipp, Jr. who plays Tupac in the film is a newcomer. How did you know that he was going to be able to carry the film? How did you know that he was the right, Pac?
BB: After seeing the photo, the photo was crazy.
EBONY: Yes it was!
BB: But, his auditions though, I was able to see him in eight different auditions. Not that he auditioned eight times. He did chemistry reads with actresses for the Jada [Pinkett] role and the Kidada [Jones] role, so I was able to watch him audition his own lines and then audition the lines against other actors. For me it was a no-brainer, I was sold after that.
EBONY: So the film is out today, congratulations.
BB: Oh [Tupac’s] birthday.
EBONY: Yes, what do you want people to take away from Tupac’s legacy and from this film?
BB: I want people to celebrate Pac, and recognize that he’s not a mythical figure, that he was a human being that he was a man that had a lot to say and that he was taken away far too soon. So, I would love people to walk away and if they know of someone; because there is a lot of Black men in our community that are like Pac in a way regarding the creativity that changed the world. If you know someone like that, tap them on the shoulder if you see them going in the wrong direction. Take a second and say, “Hey, I just saw the Pac movie, and I saw how great he was, and how great he was poised to be. What’s troubling you? You don’t need to be in this type of conflict. Life is too short.”
EBONY: All it takes is just a shift in thinking I believe.
BB: Yes, that’s what I want to do.
EBONY: As a director what was the hardest aspect of making this film?
BB: The hardest aspect was just keeping true to the things that really happened in his life. It’s a biopic; it’s not a documentary. So it’s a fictional recreation of his life. You have to tell the story in a way that connects directly toward it, so we told it Pac’s point of view. Pac wrote his own story out from interview and radio and things like that, so this movie was created from that body of interviews.
EBONY: Thank you so much.
BB: Thank you.
All Eyez On Me is now playing in theaters.