Ever fancied being Tupac Shakur? Probably not, since the multimillionaire rapper, sometime actor and general music legend was shot dead in Las Vegas in 1996. Still, anyone who has aspirations to have All Eyez On Me (as the man himself put it on the last record released before his death), can now live out their dreams. An online casting call for the lead role in the forthcoming Tupac Shakur biopic went out this week - and anyone, it seems, can have a go.
But it seems it would help if the person auditioning looks a little like Tupac in his prime. This is expected to be a high-profile blockbuster (the Training Day director Antoine Fuqua is behind the camera) rather than an arthouse exploration into his life. Nevertheless, the website (Insearchoftupac.skeetv.com) does appear to be genuinely keen to find an untried diamond in the rough. The casting call doesn't merely ask for interested parties to get in touch with a show reel of previous work: you have to download the Tupac monologue provided (sample line "Yes, I am gonna say that I'm a thug, that's because I came from the gutter and I'm still here"), film it, and then perform a one-minute excerpt from one of his songs.
It's then just a question of uploading the performance and hoping the production company Morgan Creek (whose past hits have included Young Guns and True Romance) like the look of it. As the producer David Robinson told The Hollywood Reporter: "We're looking for someone with the right mix of raw charm and charisma for the role. At this point, we're more concerned about finding someone with the ability to give their entire heart to the performance than just looks and personality."
So Robinson can probably look forward to wading through lots of wildly emoting Tupac Shakur wannabes over the next few months. But any over-the-top screen test surely won't be as ridiculous as Shakur's posthumous career, which has become more and more bizarre since his death in 1996. There are now more 2 Pac albums recorded in death than there were releases when he was alive, and the new productions are barely recognisable from the beats Shakur made himself.
But it's no surprise that this biopic is in the offing. Because, despite those 10 albums of varying quality since his death, and a truly appalling 2004 documentary, Shakur remains a cult hero. Indeed, in death he has become the best-selling rapper of all time - and it was no doubt noted that his big adversary in the great East Coast-West Coast hip-hop wars of the early to mid-1990s, The Notorious BIG, got his own posthumous film recently. It appeared not to matter that the eponymous film shied well away from any controversy and played matters safe, because it made a fortune at the box office.
A Shakur film can expect to be just as popular. And the continued interest in these slain rap stars is, to a large degree, down to their mothers. Notorious BIG's was heavily involved in his film, and Tupac's estate has also been adroitly managed by his mother, Afeni Shakur-Davis. Even this biopic - unlikely to be anything other than supportive of his life, if truth be told - he has run into legal difficulties with her company Amaru Entertainment. They were adamant that they required creative approval before handing over the rights to his life and music - resulting in a tortuous round of litigation before Morgan Creek was finally given the green light to make the film.
So it'll take a brave, talented man whose portrayal of Shakur can please not only Shakur-Davis but her son's millions of fans. But the real challenge lies with the scriptwriter and director. Do they really want to tell the kind of warts-and-all story that might - for once - give us the truth behind the violently troubled rap scene of the mid-1990s? Or will we just get another clichéd rags-to-riches tale (with its attendant soundtrack CD)? The most gripping portrayal of these times was Nick Broomfield's Biggie And Tupac, produced six years after Shakur's death. Let's hope, then, that the open audition reveals a thoughtful actor prepared to delve behind the myth, rather than a fanboy with dreams of being a pop star.