When Lifetime announced that it was planning a biopic focusing on the late Aaliyah, some worried that the movie would have a salacious tone, focusing on the singer’s marriage — later annulled — at 15 years of age to R. Kelly. or her death in 2001 at the age of 22 in a plane crash. But the movie’s producer says the film will be more inspirational than controversial.
Debra Martin Chase, who had a brief meeting with the singer in 2001 when she wanted to cast Aaliyah in the movie Sparkle, tells the New York Daily News that the Aaliyah she met “was a great, great young woman”; and that’s the woman she hopes viewers will encounter on TV.
“I didn’t personally know her well,” says Chase. “But by all accounts she had it together. Everyone who knew her talks about how impressive she was. There’s no doubt in my mind she would have become a major star. She could sing, she could act, she could dance. She had it all.”
Chase says Aaliyah’s focus and drive make her the perfect subject for the kind of movie she likes to make. “One of the reasons I wanted to make movies is that I was inspired by them when I was a child,” she says. “I hope young people who were too young to personally see Aaliyah will now be able to.”
She adds that although Aaliyah’s family would have preferred to see a theatrical film instead of a made-for-TV movie, Lifetime is a perfect home for the film. “Lifetime came to me about Aaliyah. They were enthusiastic, they wanted to promote it,” Chase says. “When someone wants to do a movie about a young African-American woman, that’s a great thing.”
And the plane crash that killed the singer doesn’t even factor into the movie. “It’s a movie about her life, not her death,” says Chase. “The plane crash was a terrible tragedy. We never considered putting it in the film.”
Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B , starring Alexandra Shipp, premieres Saturday night, November 15, at 8 on Lifetime.
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