Release Date: January 16, 2009

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119/169 Max Braden Jamal Woolard makes a very likable Biggie.

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It’s impossible to consider the career of The Notorious B.I.G. without his murder as the key event. Biggie’s career seemed wrapped around his death, even getting the timing right. His debut album was called Ready to Die, his second was given the title Life After Death before its release; Biggie died just before that album was released, making the title almost too apt. The final track on that second album was “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Kills You.” This too would prove accurate, as the heights of fame B.I.G., born Christopher Wallace, would achieve posthumously have been matched by few rappers; his fame even spilled over and made stars out of his (vastly less talented) associates Sean “P. Puff Puffy Daddy Diddy” Combs and Mason “Mase” Betha.

Now, 11 years after Wallace’s death, Fox Searchlight brings Biggie’s life story in the form of the biopic Notorious. The film is being made with heavy involvement from the friends and family of the late rapper (both Combs and Wallace’s mother are producers,) and it’s a safe bet to assume that this film will not take a particularly controversial view of Wallace’s life and achievements.

This is something of a shame, since questions linger about many aspects of Biggie’s life and death. His murder remains unsolved, and theories both plausible and far-fetched abound; his involvement (or lack thereof) in the death of rival Tupac Shakur also is still a topic of debate. According to a script review by the New York Post, however, these topics are not extensively dealt with in the biopic; the film instead focuses on Biggie’s life as a celebrity.

Underground New York rapper Jamal “Gravy” Woolard, who has not acted before, stars as The Notorious B.I.G. Combs has expressed approval at Woolard’s portrayal, describing it as eerily similar to Wallace himself. While Woolard is relatively unknown by the public at large, he attracted some media attention when he was shot in the backside outside of the Hot 97 radio studios in New York, but went upstairs to appear on Funkmaster Flex’s show anyway. (Presumably, the bullet was tended to thereafter.) Derek Luke (Antwone Fisher, Lions for Lambs) plays Combs; Angela Basset appears as Biggie’s mother, Voletta Wallace; Anthony Mackie (8 Mile, Million Dollar Baby) plays Tupac. George Tillman Jr. (Soul Food, Men of Honor) directs. (Sean Collier/BOP)

Vital statistics for Notorious
Main Cast Jamal Woolard, Angela Bassett, Derek Luke
Supporting Cast Anthony Mackie, Antonique Smith, Naturi Naughton, Dennis White, Julia Pace Mitchell
Director George Tillman Jr.
Screenwriter Reggie Rock Blythewood, Cheo Hodari Coker
Distributor Fox Searchlight Pictures
Screen Count 1,637
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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