Zoe Saldana’s Nina Simone trailer sparks race fury from singer’s family

The trailer for Nina throws the music biopic into a race row.

Nina Simone Zoe Saldana
Fury Nina Simone's daughter says the biopic is "based on a life". Image Picture John Minihan/Getty Images

Zoe Saldana’s Nina Simone biopic is at the centre of a heated race row after the unveiling of its first trailer.

The Star Trek and Avatar actress, an American of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent, wears a prosthetic nose and has darkened her skin colour to play soul great Simone.

Saldana accompanied the release of the trailer on Twitter with a quote from Simone, which brought an immediate response from the late singer’s family-run official account.

Simone’s estate followed it up with a separate tweet further criticising the film.

“Hopefully people begin to understand this is painful,” the post said. “Gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, nauseating, soul-crushing. It shall pass, but for now…”

Twitter quickly joined the debate, with many users questioning why it was made with Saldana in the lead role.

Simone’s daughter Lisa Simone Kelly has previously voiced her disapproval for the film. Kelly said that Viola Davis, Kimberly Elise or Adepero Oduye would have been better casting choices than Saldana, but didn’t blame her for taking on the role.

“It’s based on a lie. It’s tainted from the rooter to the tooter, and if it comes out, God bless them,” Kelly said in an interview last year to promote Netflix documentary What Happened Miss Simone?

Zoe Saldana Nina trailer
Makeover Zoe Saldana's prosthetic nose and darkened skin tone has sparked controversy. Image Picture RLJ Entertainment

“If I were Zoe – and I’ve really tried to put myself in her shoes – and I had the opportunity to play someone as complex and intricate and deep as my mother, I think I probably would have grasped at the opportunity as well.

“But at the same time, when you read the material, when you read the script, if you have any real knowledge of Nina Simone, then you need to ask certain questions.”

Nina, which also stars David Oyelowo, Ella Thomas and Mike Epps, is currently due for release in US cinemas on April 22.

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Loaded digital media manager Simon Reynolds has written about film and entertainment for various leading websites since 2008. Follow Simon at @simonreyn

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