Does this count?
First look at Gugu Mbatha-Raw in 'Beyond the Lights'
was 2007 and Alicia Keys was singing “Diary” at the Hollywood Bowl when
inspiration struck writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love and
Basketball) for her new movie Beyond the Lights, the tale of a perfectly
packaged pop star, played by Belle‘s Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who’s been
groomed for stardom from a young age by her overbearing, opportunistic
mother (Minnie Driver).
The movie spent
years in development while Prince-Bythewood, who helmed 2008′s Secret
Life of Bees, argued with Sony Pictures over her lead actress. “The
studios wanted a big star, and I wanted the right person for the role,”
says Prince-Bythewood, who hired her own casting agent to find
Mbatha-Raw. “There is an innate vulnerability in Gugu. And you can sense
her star power. That’s what we needed to believe–that she could be
Rihanna or Beyonce.”
Once Sony put the project into turnaround,
Prince-Bythewood produced her own eight-minute presentation of
Mbatha-Raw as her lead and found her financiers in BET and Relativity
Media.“It was so nice to sit in a room and not hear that the
lead is a black woman and she’s not going to sell,” she adds. “Rather
they said, ‘We think she’s a star, who do you want for your male lead?’”
chose Nate Parker (Non-Stop, Red Tails) for that role, and the cast and
crew convened in Los Angeles and London last September to shoot.
Mbatha-Raw, currently earning raves in the period piece Belle, it was a
chance to explore the darker side of a glamorous industry. “When you
are groomed into these shiny music-industry acts from a young age, there
are a lot of identity issues,” she says. “It’s about the psychological
expectations of fame.”source