In April, F. Gary Grey, director of the upcoming N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton, staged an open casting call to find actors to play the principal roles.
Asked what he was looking for, the director said, "It's just a certain thing that a person from the hood has.
When you watch American Idol and they have that 'It Factor' – there's a 'Hood Factor.' You get the authenticity when you're in an environment likes this, and you have an open call, and I've been seeing that, and I'm pretty happy with it."
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Gray has filled two of these roles, casting a pair of unknown actors to play N.W.A members Dr. Dre and Eazy-E. Classically trained actor Marcus Callender (Dre) and Jason Mitchell (Eazy-E) will join Ice Cube's son O'Shea Jackson Jr., who will play the role of his father.
Despite Dre's request to have Michael B. Jordan play him, Callender, a veteran of New York's Shakespeare Lab at the Public Theater, won the role. As THR notes, Callender has had small roles on HBO's Criminal Justice and CBS's Blue Bloods and Elementary. Mitchell, who's had minor roles in Broken City and Contraband, reportedly snagged the role of the deceased rapper after an impressive screen test. Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy-E's widow Tomica Wright have all approved the actors.
The long-in-the-works biopic was first announced in 2009, with Grey saying recently that he wanted to place the controversial and groundbreaking group in the proper cultural context. "It's not unlike Social Network or American Graffiti where you take a place and time in America, especially as it relates to popular culture, and you see the shift, and they were right there and created part of the pivot that America took in entertainment," he said. "We went from Madonna, Michael Jackson and Prince to hip-hop, and this is the time that marks that shift and that era."
Playing Dr. Dre is relatively unknown actor Marcus Callender, an alum of New York’s Shakespeare Lab at the Public Theater. Michael B. Jordan was initially requested, before Jordan signed on for Fox’s Fantastic Four. Callender can be seen in the pilot for Criminal Justice on HBO, as well as bit parts in the CBS series Blue Bloods and Elementary.
With the main roles cast and approved, principal photography on the film is set to begin within two months.