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All Eyez on Me’: The Immortal Life of Tupac on Screen

Debuting on what would’ve been Tupac’s 46th birthday, ‘All Eyez On Me’ provides a raw look into the rapper’s life beyond the spotlight.

The movie, named after his fourth and final album, has fans curious as to what parts of the highly anticipated biopic are fact and fiction. Producer L.T. Hutton, who was also one of Tupac’s former music producers, says this film “isn’t just a movie, it’s a movement.”

“This is not a tap dance, fluff, a long music video, this thing is what Tupac really was. He had a lot of different things he just couldn’t get out because of his over personification,” Hutton said. “And then the fact that he died at 25, he left a lot of work undone — so hopefully this film would be the completion of that work.”

Image: Demetrius Shipp Jr.
Demetrius Shipp Jr. stars as Tupac Shakur in "All Eyez On Me." Quantrell Colbert

The movie touches on Tupac’s childhood, shedding light on his family’s involvement in the Black Panther Party, his start in poetry and coming onto the music scene with music group ‘Digital Underground.’

Showing his frequent run-ins with law enforcement, it shows Tupac’s point of view when it comes to crime and police brutality. It features hits such as ‘California Love’ and ‘So Many Tears.’ The movie also shows intense moments between Tupac and mother Afeni Shakur, played brilliantly by Danai Gurira and his close friendship with Jada Pinkett-Smith, played by Kat Graham. Fans also get a glimpse at the low-key friendship Tupac and Biggie shared before their rivalry escalated.

Related: Afeni Shakur Davis: The Activist, Organizer, Leader Remembered

For Hutton, telling the story of one of the most iconic figures in the music industry in two hours and twenty minutes was sometimes quite simple, but other times like solving a Rubix cube.

“When you listen to the way Tupac talks about his life he doesn't go too deep or in detail about certain things. He gives you a clear trajectory of his life without going too far into one thing or another,” Hutton said. “It wasn’t the Digital Underground movie. It wasn’t a Bad Boy war movie. You know it wasn’t a Death Row movie. It was the Tupac Shakur story.”

Image: Demetrius Shipp Jr. and Kat Graham
Demetrius Shipp Jr. as Tupac Shakur and Kat Graham as Jada Pinkett-Smith in "All Eyez On Me." Quantrell Colbert

Demetrius Shipp, Jr. makes his acting debut as Tupac. Acting was never one of his initial goals. But his friends did always call him the spitting image of Tupac.

When auditions were announced, Shipp’s friends encouraged him to submit a tape. Hesitant, he slipped his submission in just 30 minutes before auditions closed.

Shipp’s father produced Tupac’s “Toss It Up” on his first posthumous album “The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory.”

Related: The L.A. Riots as Told Through Rap and Hip-Hop

Despite the immense pressure to play the role of a demigod in rap music, Shipp said he wasn’t nervous and had the support he needed to portray Tupac to the fullest.

“I submerged myself in his life,” Shipp said. “Before I went to sleep at night that’s what I was watching. The videos would literally be going on while I was sleep, that’s what I was hearing in my sleep. I woke up in the morning, Tupac.”

Shipp hopes this movie will help fans cultivate “a new-found love” for the artist.

Image: Demetrius Shipp Jr.
Demetrius Shipp Jr. plays Tupac Shakur in "All Eyez On Me." Quantrell Colbert

The film has opened to some criticism about the authenticity of certain events from actress Jada Pinkett-Smith, a close friend of Tupac. “My relationship to Pac is too precious to me for the scenes in All Eyez On Me to stand as truth,” she tweeted on Friday.

In a series of other tweets, Pinkett-Smith disputed certain scenes and said she was hurt by the way her friendship with Tupac is displayed, though she praised the actors for their portrayals.

In 20 years that Tupac has been dead, much has already been released about his life, but Hutton wants people to “erase their preconceived notions and just go into this film with a clean slate.”

With movies like “Hustle & Flow” and “Straight Outta Compton” making an imprint on the movie industry, Graham hopes the story of the immortal artist will do the same.

“I want this to be a crazy big box office opening as a message to Hollywood that movies like this do have an audience and that our stories are going to be told,” Graham said. “It’s just such a bigger message than just one man or one woman — and I think Pac would’ve wanted to be someone who was the voice of the people and not just for himself.”

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