"I heard Eddie Murphy was trying to do it at one point in time. Laurence Fishburne. Even Will Smith," says OutKast’s André Benjamin who stars as Jimi Hendrix in the upcoming biopic “Jimi: All Is By My Side.”
Arguably the world’s greatest guitar hero, the film, which is written and directed by Oscar winning screenwriter John Ridley (“12 Years a Slave” “Red Tails”) covers a year in Hendrix’s life from 1966-67 as an unknown backup guitarist playing New York’s Cheetah Club to making his mark in London’s music scene up until his Monterey Pop triumph.
"I did a lot of research," continues Benjamin who has long admired Hendrix citing his influence in the work of OutKast, the Atlanta-based hip hop duo he fronts with Antwan “Big Boi” Patton. "As a music artist I read about Hendrix years before, so I knew him in a way. Or I thought I knew him. There were way more things I didn't know. I did a lot of reading. It helped put in my mind what Hendrix may have said or what may have felt at a certain time. Certain expressions. I listened to hours of interviews. I watched films; watched his mannerisms."
To aptly play the iconic musician, he spent a few intensive months preparing before filming started including learning how to play the guitar left-handed, or at least maintain the illusion he was playing left-handed and mastering Hendrix’s more outrageous guitar techniques.
"There was guitar practice, weight training, weight loss, voice coaching," adds Benjamin. “Hendrix to me is the greatest performer that ever lived, not just in rock, but period. He’s the greatest performer and artist that walked the planet. Since he stepped on the planet, until now, there's no one who has trumped what he has done. He threw his whole self into what he was doing.”
Also starring Hayley Atwell, who plays Hendrix's love interest, Kathy Etchingham, Imogen Poots, Andrew Buckley and Ruth Negg, the film releases in theaters Sept. 26, 2014.
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