Biggie Smalls is headed for the B.I.G. screen.
Fox Searchlight is in talks with Training Day director Antoine Fuqua to helm a biopic on the life of slain rapper Christopher Wallace, aka Biggie Smalls, aka the Notorious B.I.G.
The film will chronicle the larger than life persona of the "Bigga Than Life" rapper, as well as focus on his off-stage family life.
"Nobody knows Christopher the human being," Biggie's mother, Voletta Wallace, said in a statement released by the studio. "He was somebody with feelings, somebody with a heart. Christopher was a son, a father and a good friend. It's time for people to know the real him."
The screenplay will be penned by former journalist Cheo Hodari Coker, the last person to interview Biggie before his 1997 murder. Once a reporter for Vibe, Premiere and the Los Angeles Times, Coker is also the author of Unbelievable: The Life, Death, and Afterlife of the Notorious B.I.G.. However, Coker's screenplay will not be adapted from his book; instead, it he's expected to collaborate closely on the script with the Wallace family.
Voletta Wallace will also coproduce the film with Biggie's former managers, Wayne Barrow and Mark Pitts.
According to Barrow, the trio have been working hard to get a B.I.G. flick up and running for the past five years now, but waited to make sure they found a studio that gave them creative control.
"People wanted to give us check and do a film that they wanted to do, but Searchlight gave us the opportunity to really be able to come in and tell the story the way it was supposed to be told," Barrow told the Hollywood Reporter. "It's not just a hip-hop film, it's a film of life and a film of love. We didn't want to sell our souls to the devil, so to speak, just to get a check. The story is too important, not just to us but to hip-hop."
Standing six-feet tall and weighing over 400 pounds, Biggie cut an intimidating figure in the world of hip-hop, morphing from Brooklyn crack dealer to top star on Sean "P. Diddy" Combs's Bad Boy Entertainment roster. Biggie also served as a mentor to such performers as Lil' Kim and wife Faith Evans, helping launch their careers.
Wallace famously engaged in a lyrical feud with rival rapper Tupac Shakur of Death Row Records, sparking the so-called East Coast-West Coast rap rivalry that many blame for both the 1996 drive-by murder of Tupac and the slaying of Biggie six months later.
The rappers' complex, intertwined history was chronicled in Nick Broomfield's hit 2002 documentary, Biggie & Tupac. (Biggie's story was also told on the big screen in 2000's Notorious B.I.G.: Bigga Than Life, and he was a featured performer in the 1997 hip-hop celebration Rhyme and Reason).
Although both murders officially remain unsolved, Wallace's family sued the Los Angeles Police Department and the City of Los Angeles in 2002 for violating his civil rights and contributing to his wrongful death. The suit claims the LAPD didn't do enough to protect Biggie in light of the feud and Shakur's death and may have even covered up the role of corrupt cops in the shooting.
Two weeks ago, after just three days of testimony in the case, a federal judge declared a mistrial after the LAPD and city attorneys failed to hand over reams of evidence related to the murder investigation. The family has vowed to refile an expanded complaint.
Producers hope to have the Biggie movie in theaters by the time a new trial rolls around. According to Barrow, filming will likely begin next spring--that is, once they find the right actor to fill some pretty big shoes.
"The most important element to casting B.I.G. is what we consider the swagger," he told the Reporter "They have to have the element of the man and be able to capture the essence of who he was and his maneuvering, his relishings of life. You can't instill this in an individual, you just have to have it."