As the first official trailer for Bob Marley: One Love is unveiled, director Reinaldo Marcus Green and producer Ziggy Marley – the musician and son of the late music icon – have told Rolling Stone UK about what viewers can expect from the upcoming biopic.
The film, which stars Kingsley Ben-Adir as the Jamaican musician and reggae legend, focuses on the period of 1976 to 1977 – during which he and his wife Rita Marley (Lashana Lynch) were shot in an attempted assassination on his life – before he died of melanoma in 1981 aged only 36. The biopic also revisits his childhood and the experiences that shaped him.
It’s the era that Ziggy Marley describes as the period when he “had the most growth, the most mental expansion, the most spiritual expansion, the most important time in his life that made him into what we know he is now”.
“That’s what we wanted to explore,” he said. “What makes Bob, Bob Marley as we know him?”
Also starring in the film is James Norton as Trojan Records boss Chris Blackwell, as well as roles for Michael Gandolfini, Tosin Cole, Anthony Welsh, Umi Myers, Nadine Marshall, Sundra Oakley and more.
Watch the first trailer and read Rolling Stone UK’s Q&A with Marley and Green below.
Approaching a biopic about such an iconic figure brings a great deal of responsibility. Reinaldo, did you feel pressure with this project and what were your top priorities going into it?
Reinaldo: Of course you feel pressure just given the magnitude and the importance of the story and Bob’s legacy. But from the very first meeting, Ziggy was on the call, and to get the blessing of Ziggy and the family, that was a huge step. There was something in my work that must have resonated and that felt like a huge weight off the shoulders to have that blessing, and then the real work began.
But to be able to tap into those real conversations, to real access, in a way that you can’t online or through theories or anything like that, to have that was an incredible thing for me as a filmmaker, and to have the trust. Like anything, the importance of trying to tell an authentic story, one that is meaningful, one that can reach audiences, one that taps into the hearts and minds of people, I think that’s what we certainly tried to do with this film.
Ziggy, what were the things about your father you felt it was most important this film captured?
Ziggy: We’re trying to show people something that they don’t know, because a lot of people think they know everything, they think they know Bob so much. So I think what we tried to do is capture something that is not on the surface, but lies beneath the surface. And to make people understand the human struggle, the personal struggle that Bob went through to achieve what he is still achieving today. I think that was one of the main things – let’s give the people something that is not written in the books, is not seen in a documentary.
This man, this human being, this legend, let’s explore deep inside what’s going on within this man, to let people have a better understanding, but also to inspire them to know that greatness is not something that comes without fault or comes with perfection. Nobody’s perfect. And so the inspiration of a story like that is that this great man who everybody loves is imperfect also. That inspires us as human beings that we can do great things too with our imperfections.
There was a global casting search to find the right Bob Marley. What made Kingsley Ben-Adir right for the part, and what does he bring to the role?
Reinaldo: Kingsley had the essence that we were looking for. We were looking for someone that can tap into all the things that Ziggy just said. Someone that can provide us with the things that we don’t typically understand about Bob. He’s an incredible actor. He has incredible range and depth. He’s very thoughtful, he’s very insightful. And from his very first audition tape, he had ‘it’.
Ziggy: Nobody’s Bob Marley. Bob is Bob. So Kingsley’s interpretation of who Bob is captures the essence. You’re never gonna be Bob, but to capture the essence, the spirit, when we saw Kingsley, he held our attention. And if you’re going to play Bob, you have to be able to hold our attention.
Does he sing in the film, or is it dubbing or a mixture of both?
Reinaldo: It’s a mixture of both. Kingsley performed everything that you see in the movie. So he goes fully in, we have him performing everything, but in order to make the voice one it’s a mixture of Ziggy and Steven [Marley] and the family. So we have real Bob recordings, we have Steven, we have Ziggy, to make it one universal voice in the film.
We’ve seen a lot of different approaches to various musical biopics over the past few years from Whitney Houston to Elvis to Elton John. Stylistically and creatively, how did you approach making Bob Marley: One Love?
Reinaldo: We always want to be unique and stand out from the pack. Those are great movies, and they have their place, but our place, it should represent the man, it should represent his story. I know from very early on, we talked about films like City of God, Black Orpheus, movies that have a really genuine, authentic, sense of place. And I think for us that that was paramount, that was that was critical to our story that we were going to be casting real Jamaicans, shooting in Jamaica, we were going to be on the streets in Trench Town, we were going to be going to the places that Bob lived and was from, and we made sure that we did that. I think that was critical from the very beginning. I think that adds a layer of authenticity to the filmmaking process so that you feel that you are on the journey.
What do you think it is about Bob Marley’s music and him as a person that has continued to resonate with people and make him so entrenched in our culture?
Ziggy: It’s not just his music, but his personality, his interviews, the way he talks, it’s like he’s my bro, you feel such a close connection. He’s like one of us, he’s like a brother, like a friend, like a family member. They just love him because, not just the music, just because of who his personality is, but where he comes from, and how he talks and his philosophy about life: love, unity. All them little things make people feel closer to him than any other artists in the world.
Reinaldo: Bob is a revolutionary. I think that he has that fighting human spirit and that plays in the music, it plays in his lyrics. And I think the film brings you closer to those lyrics, to understanding them. And I think that’s what’s most important. A lot of people know the tunes, but they don’t understand the meaning behind the words. And we hope that the film brings you a little closer to that.
Bob Marley: One Love is slated for release on January 12, 2024 through Paramount Pictures