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John Singleton May Direct the Tupac Shakur Biopic

Tupac Shakur.

Almost twenty years after directing Tupac Shakur in Poetic Justice, John Singleton is in negotiations to direct a biopic about the slain rapper for Morgan Creek and Universal Pictures. The project had been set up with Training Day director Antoine Fuqua, but we’re told he had difficulty casting the role of Shakur; even a nationwide talent search failed to yield candidates of which Fuqua approved. As such, Fuqua has moved on and is looking at other projects, most notably attaching himself to direct Relativity Media’s Hunter Killer, a thriller about an American submariner and a Navy SEAL team who must work together to rescue the Russian president during a military coup d'état. (Vulture also hears exclusively that Relativity is in talks with Sam Worthington to star in that production.)

Singleton, meanwhile, had also been rumored to be in the running to direct the rapidly coalescing N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton at New Line Cinema, but insiders tell us that he’s instead taking the Tupac gig after the studio said it wanted to see how rival Compton candidate Craig Brewer fares with his update of Footloose, which opens this weekend. (Our prediction: Not well. The latest NRG tracking numbers shared with Vulture show that 80 percent of moviegoers surveyed said that they were aware of Footloose, but only a little more than one in four — just 28 percent — expressed "definite interest" in seeing it. Only 6 percent of moviegoers said it would be their "first choice" at the box office.) Plus, there’s the old “bird in the hand” theory; after Singleton’s Abduction flopped, we can’t imagine too many other studio offers were forthcoming.

The Tupac script comes from Oscar-nominated screenwriters Stephen J. Rivele and Chris Wilkinson (Ali, Nixon), though we’re told the most recent draft is by Brian Tucker; his neo-noir script Broken City starts shooting next month with Allen Hughes directing, and Russell Crowe, Mark Wahlberg, and Catherine Zeta-Jones starring. That project was acquired for distribution by the Fox-based New Regency only last week.

Shakur and Singleton became quite friendly during the filming of 1993’s Justice, which is readily apparent in their easy camaraderie in this brief BET Rap City clip dating from June 1994 (in which — spoiler alert! — Tupac leaves Singleton in the dust in a sidewalk sprint-off). As such, it will be intriguing to see whom Singleton plans to cast in the title role of his former friend and colleague.

Photo: Steve Granitz Archive/WireImage