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Zendaya Opens Up About Why She Declined the Role In the Aaliyah Biopic

Gettyimages | Matt Winkelmeyer
By Shadress Denise

In order to have a successful biopic about a musical artist’s life, you need to have the right ingredients to make it happen. Rights to the artist’s music, actors who closely resemble the artist and of course, you’d need the family’s blessing, so that the portrayal of the artist's life resonates on screen.

In 2014, the Lifetime network failed to compile all these components which left viewers and fans unable to connect with the 2015 biopic of R&B singer Aaliyah Haughton’s life.

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On August 25, 2001, the music world suffered a huge loss when singer Aaliyah, 22, died tragically in a plane crash alongside nine others from her team.

At the time, Aaliyah was in the Bahamas recording a video for her new single Rock the Boat from the album that would be her last.

The sudden death of the singer left a void in the music world leaving many to wonder what her life and career may have been life had she lived past that day.

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Thirteen years later, Lifetime decided to poach Disney actress and singer, Zendaya to portray the late singer in the biopic Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B. Initially the 23-year-old was slated to portray Aaliyah, but later pulled out of the project due to production issues among other things.

According to E! News, the network had issues obtaining the rights to Aaliyah’s music, along with the family’s blessing and participation. Due to these factors, it provoked the singer’s decision to step away from the project just weeks before it was scheduled to start filming.

Gettyimages | Kristy Sparow

"Aaliyah has always been an inspiration to Zendaya," the source said. "She was honored to portray her and pay tribute to her. If she is going to do it, she wants to do it right."

In addition to the family’s lack of support, there was a host of public disapproval regarding her participation in the film. The network later came back and stated due to her pulling out, production would be placed on hold. The Disney star was eventually replaced by Alexandra Shipp and the temporary hold on filming had been lifted.

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Zendaya eventually spoke out about her decision to pull out and addressed the rumors of it being due to the public backlash occurring at the time.

“Let me just explain something. The reason why I chose not to do the Aaliyah movie had nothing to do with the haters or people telling me I couldn’t do it. There were complications with the music rights,” she said.

The Greatest Showman actress continued, “And I just felt like it wasn’t being handled delicately considering the situation. And I tried my best to reach out to the family on my own and I wrote a letter, but I was unable to do so. Therefore, I felt not really morally OK with moving forward with the project.”

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