Aaliyah Biopic Facing Controversy Over Casting, R. Kelly

Andrew Parks

By Andrew Parks

on 06.23.14 in News

Aaliyah’s family has blasted a Lifetime biopic (based on the bestseller Aaliyah: More Than a Woman by former Time music editor Christopher Farley) that’s set to start shooting this summer and premiere sometime in the fall. “Aaliyah was more than a singer,” they said in a statement (via Rolling Stone). “She was – and is still – an American music icon whose legacy continues to live on and influence today’s music culture, just as Ray Charles, Notorious B.I.G., Selena and Johnny Cash. Considering the magnitude of her fans’ affection alone, she deserves to have a tribute much more grand than a television network debut that won’t even consider the perspectives of those who were closest to Aaliyah. Disregarding the families and dishonoring the legacies of celebrated figures who have passed on, big networks want to exploit their stories for a buck. We’re here to make it clear that it’s not okay!”

One of the reasons they’re most likely trying to stop the film — aside from the fact that Lifetime isn’t exactly a stellar movie studio — is its take on Aaliyah’s troubled relationship with R. Kelly. According to a marriage certificate that surfaced years later, the pair reportedly listed Aaliyah’s age as 18 when she was just 15 and Kelly was 27, leading Aaliyah’s parents to have the couple’s marriage annulled.

When asked about Lifetime’s intentions, executive producer Debra Martin Chase told the New York Post, “Aaliyah’s personal and professional relationship with R. Kelly will be explored with care in the film as we set out to depict her life with the utmost respect. Above all else, it’s our hope to inspire an entirely new generation with her music and larger-than-life talent.”

If everything goes as planned, 17-year-old Disney Channel star Zendaya will play Aaliyah, which has upset some fans for an entirely different reason: the fact that she’s bi-racial.

“A lot of people say I’m not black enough,” Coleman said in a Splash News interview (via Mstars) over the weekend. “Half black is just enough. It doesn’t matter what color you are; it’s about how you portray the character.”