DistributorThe film went from vague idea to practical reality in 2008, when original script writers Alan Wenkus and Leigh Savidge sold the rights to the film, along with the rights to the group's music, to New Line to begin production. The film was then announced on Mar. 7, 2009; however, New Line merged with Warner Bros. in 2008, and the film was largely shelved. Universal would acquire the rights on Nov. 19, 2012, and a year later, once a new writer was in place, the company announced that Scott Bernstein and Sara Scott would be in charge of the film from the studio side.
ProducersVery early on it was announced that Ice Cube and Tomica Woods-Wright, Eazy-E's widow, would produce the film and have final say over casting. Matt Alvarez, a longtime film associate of Cube's, was also involved, as well as Will Packer. In an interview earlier this month with The Breakfast Club, Cube also clarified the rest of the group's roles, with Dre also signing on as a producer with casting influence, while MC Ren and DJ Yella would act as consultants. The budget for the film is said to be around $25 million.
DirectorWhile announcing the film in 2009, Entertainment Weekly suggested that the producers were looking for a director in the same vein as 8 Mile's Curtis Hansen. Two years later, Boyz N The Hood director John Singleton mentioned that he had been in talks with Cube about working on the project, but that nothing had been finalized yet; six months after that, in March 2012, Ice Cube indicated in an interview that the film was about to hire a director. On April 10, Friday and The Italian Job director F. Gary Gray signed on to direct Straight Outta Compton. In January of this year, Cube clarified the decision, saying, "It was never John Singleton. They had both gone for the job, and at the time, Gary got the job."
f gary gray
ScriptThis has been a source of much contention; after Alan Wenkus and Leigh Savidge wrote the original script that New Line had bought, they were brought in for two more rewrites before being removed from the project. The person that the company brought in to write a new script in May 2010 was a white woman named Andrea Berloff, a talented up-and-coming Hollywood talent who nonetheless was caught up in a sea of contention about her ability to write the story, largely based on her race and gender.
A year after the film's transition from New Line to Universal, Jonathan Herman was brought in to re-write the script again, taking the position in December of 2013. A month later, Ice Cube let loose a few details on the direction of that script, saying it will be a comprehensive “dramatic story that encompasses hip-hop, dope-dealing, Reaganomics, AIDS, LAPD, rap feuds, FBI, PMRC, the Parental Advisory stickers on the records... all of it.”
CastingThe biggest question all along has been who would play the members of N.W.A. The first indication that there could be a familial connection was in September 2011, when Eazy-E's son went on record say he wanted to play his father in the rumored biopic. Adding more fuel to the nepotism fire was a TMZ interview in January 2012, when they asked Dr. Dre about the film and he indicated that his son and Ice Cube's son could also play their respective dads in the film, and shortly after that Cube confirmed that he was on board for that option.
This March, director F. Gary Gray announced a series of open casting calls looking to find unknown actors to play the parts, and YG auditioned for the role of MC Ren. Dr. Dre then wanted Michael B. Jordan to play him, but Jordan took the role of Johnny Storm in The Fantastic Four and knocked himself out of contention, while the producers said they were leaning towards unknowns, partly due to budget concerns. But that's all settled now, as last week Ice Cube announced that his son, O'Shea Jackson Jr., would play him, while Marcus Callender is set to play Dre and Jason Mitchell has been cast as Eazy-E.
FilmingWithout a cast, it's been pretty impossible for anything to be filmed, of course. But in August of 2012, Dre tweeted a photo of himself and Gray on the set of a shoot, and announced that the film had started shooting anyway. Earlier this Spring, it was announced that Gray, Cube and Dre had shot the end credits of the movie, with Dre and Cube speaking about the group's legacy; while it is set to be a part of the film, the scene was apparently shot in order to qualify for California's film tax credit, which is expiring soon. Now that casting and the script have come together, expect things to really get rolling within the next two months.
ControversiesThe biggest controversy the film has faced centered on Andrea Berloff's appointment as the second scriptwriter; as a white woman writing about young black men from Compton in the late 1980s, there was a strong backlash about her credentials and ability. But Berloff is no longer a part of the film—Jonathan Herman was hired to re-write the script in December—and the other controversies have been more minor and more recent.
Cube has said that he's trying to convince Dre to record new music to coincide with the biopic; Dre's busy schedule working with Kendrick Lamar and Jon Connor, not to mention his notoriously laborious recording pace, has kept that from happening so far, if it even will in the future. More worrying, perhaps, are Kokane's accusations that Ice Cube hasn't reached out to Eazy-E's family or record label artists such as himself for input on Eazy's role, although with Eazy's widow a producer on the project, that's a little tough to believe.
The film's trailer is below: