‘Nina’ Director Admits That Financing Played a Part in Zoe Saldana’s Casting.

Nina Simone Zoe Saldana

Weeks after a trailer release sparked massive backlash and just one week before the film’s release, Nina director Cynthia Mort is opening up about the controversial casting of Zoe Saldana in a new must-read interview.

Mort, who along with the project’s producers and distributor, initially doubled down on the seemingly odd casting choice is now admitting that financing played a major part in the decision.

“Certainly I would not have cast Zoe if I felt she was wrong for the role in a million years. Zoe’s amazing. She’s amazing in the movie,” Mort said. “She gave her all. She’s honest, she’s courageous, she’s fierce.”

She continued: “For me, Zoe was a creative decision. However, long before I met Zoe, there were other people considered who were not acceptable to financiers. And for Barnaby [Thompson] to say anything other than that is incorrect.”

Thompson, one of Nina’s producers, however, maintained that financing did not play a significant part as the film was a low-budget endeavour.

“There is a narrative that seems to be running in some of the coverage of the film, which is suggesting that we were making decisions driven by commercial reasons,” he said. “And I think it should be very clear that this is a low-budget indie movie. The budget was just over $7 million.”

As the interview continues, we find where Mort truly misses the point is the subject of colorism.

“It’s a narrative film,” Mort said. “You help your actor inhabit a character any way that you can. Just as Nicole Kidman put on Virginia Woolf’s nose, or Leo did his J. Edgar Hoover makeup—” she interrupted herself, and spoke emphatically. “I understand the issue of race. And color is a sensitive issue. But at the same time, it is a movie. And it is an actor. And everyone is doing their best to find the truth in that.”

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