“It was like solving a Rubik’s Cube,” says L.T. Hutton, producer of the Tupac Shakur biopic All Eyez on Me, of bringing the rapper’s story to the silver screen amid production delays and a shuffling of directors.
It has taken more than 20 years since Shakur’s 1996 death for a dramatized depiction of the MC to arrive, but some of its key moments have been obvious since day one. Real-life Shakur collaborator Hutton, director Benny Boom and star Demetrius Shipp Jr. — who makes his acting debut as Shakur, and whose father was an in-house producer at Death Row Records — pinpoint the major scenes from the movie, which hits theaters on what would have been Shakur’s 46th birthday, June 16.
1. TUPAC HEADS TO COURT
Shipp pored over hours of Shakur footage to nail his mannerisms and to gain insight into the rapper’s most trying moments. He points to the sequence where Shakur lands in prison on Riker’s Island on two counts of sexual abuse stemming from a 1993 incident. “You’re going to see a man dealing with life as it comes — not always making the smartest decisions,” says the 28-year-old, who scored the role after his father passed his audition tape to Hutton. “You know what Tupac did, but you don’t know what Tupac was dealing with at the time he made those choices. You’re going to see what was going on.”
2. HUSTLING IN THE STUDIO
Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight signed Shakur to his roster while the rising star was in jail, leading to many long studio sessions in Los Angeles after he had completed nine months of his prison sentence in 1995. With input from Hutton and Shipp’s father, Boom showcased Shakur’s work ethic. “We were able to get the insight on the day-to-day at Can-Am studios,” says the 45-year-old director. “‘Pac did three or four records a day when he got out. He’d record and didn’t want to mix it [or] hear it back. He was almost recording like he knew that it was going to be over for him, but he wanted to leave his legacy.”
3. THE BIGGIE BEEF BOILS OVER
Little is known about Shakur’s communication with The Notorious B.I.G. (Jamal Woolard, reprising his role from the 2009 Biggie biopic Notorious) when the East Coast-West Coast feud raged in 1996. The film attempts to show Shakur’s humanity when he denies sleeping with Biggie’s wife, Faith Evans (Grace Gibson), to close friend Jada Pinkett (Kat Graham). “There’s a scene where Jada walks in and says, ‘What’s that about?’” says Hutton. “Tupac answers, ‘Listen, it’s not like that. What I’m saying is, I used to let him rock at my shows, let him sleep on my couch. I did a lot for him. He owes me more.’”
4. THE DRIVE-BY SHOOTING
Understandably, the most emotional scene was the 1996 Las Vegas incident that led to Shakur’s death at 25. “E.D.I. [Mean] from [the Shakur-founded rap group] Outlawz was there, and he’s actually in the movie, playing himself,” says Boom. “I was like, ‘Can you play this scene where you’re once again telling ’Pac to hold on?’ It was tough for everybody — tough for the actors because the shooting was the last thing we did in Vegas, [and] for us as a crew to film that scene because we knew ultimately we had to get there, but we wanted to save it for the end. You feel the emotion in the scene when you see the film. It was deep.”