While Suge Knight’s murder charge, Feb. 3 not guilty plea, revoked $2 million bail and reported courtroom panic attack play out like a Hollywood drama, Universal Pictures is moving forward with its Aug. 14 release of N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton.
Knight, 49, the one-time rap mogul and founder of Death Row Records, was at the center of a fatal hit-and-run accident on Jan. 29 just miles from a Compton promotional shoot in Los Angeles. Universal declined to comment or clarify what type of footage was being filmed, but sources say that Paul Hunter, a commercial and music video director who has worked with Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez, was behind the camera when Knight showed up on the Compton set uninvited and got into a verbal altercation with Cle “Bone” Sloan, a former gang member and actor (Training Day) who often works as a Hollywood liaison on inner-city sets. Given Knight’s violent past, Universal immediately shut down the set. (It’s unclear if N.W.A. founders and Compton producers Dr. Dre and Ice Cube were present.) But police say Knight drove to Tam’s Burgers nearby and kept sparring with Sloan, then drove his vehicle into the 51-year-old. Sloan was hospitalized in stable condition. Another man, 55-year-old Terry Carter, died at the scene.
Straight Outta Compton cast members (from left) O’Shea Jackson Jr. (playing his father, Ice Cube), Jason Mitchell (Eazy E) and Corey Hawkins (Dre).
Outside of sending sympathy to the victims, reaction to the news among those in the hip-hop community has been surprisingly quiet, much like talk of a schedule shift for Compton. A source insists everything is “status quo” with the film, adding, “We like our release date; we don’t want to change anything, and we’re hoping we can stick to everything we have.” As for the commercial shoot, Universal has yet to resume production. But an insider says, “I would be shocked if it’s scrapped. The expectation is that it will finish.”