“All of it,” producer LT Hutton says when asked what he felt he absolutely had to get right in “All Eyez on Me,” the Tupac Shakur biopic that arrives two decades after the rapper’s death at age 25. “We had to get all of it right. There wasn’t anything that was small. Nothing was minute. Everything was major.”
The movie covers Shakur’s life, both public and private, from literally before he was born to his murder in 1996. Hutton, who befriended Shakur while producing music for Death Row Records, brought to the film an intimate knowledge of his subject — and he has the documents to prove it.
“There were times when I was questioning things and how authentic they were,” says Demetrius Shipp Jr., who plays Shakur (and bears an eerie resemblance). “LT would just go to his Tupac bible.”
Hutton has amassed a collection of Shakur-related artifacts, including notes, poetry and lyrics written by the rapper himself. “Those times when people wanted to debate — you can debate with me, you can debate with [director Benny Boom], but the one thing you cannot debate with was what Tupac said,” Hutton says.
“All Eyez on Me” pays particular attention to the relationships between Shakur and the women in his life. Shakur was often criticized for misogynistic lyrics, but he also wrote the celebratory songs “Dear Mama” and “Keep Ya Head Up.” One longtime relationship explored is Shakur’s bond with his high school friend Jada Pinkett, portrayed in the film by Kat Graham.
“She’s like his Jiminy Cricket,” Graham says of Pinkett, who would go on to marry Will Smith the year after Shakur’s death. “She was with [Shakur] from the beginning, so she saw him in his rawest form. She always saw him as her childhood friend. I think what made their relationship so profound was when everyone around him was kissing his ass, she wasn’t. There’s no friendship like the friendship they have with each other with anyone else in their lives.”
Another woman to have a profound effect on Shakur was his mother, Afeni (Danai Gurira).
“In my research, I found he was really just a male version of her,” Shipp says. “His upbringing, where he got his activism from, where he got that leadership.”
Graham says she found it “empowering” to play a woman so pivotal in Shakur’s life. “You look at the experiences that Pac had with his mother, with Jada,” she says, “and you see how they affect his choices and his music and who he was as a man.”