• slideshow image

The following questions and answers are excerpted from a conversation that followed the NBR screening of Bob Marley: One Love

Can you talk about the research that you did, and about the consultants that you brought in to make sure you got it right? I was so impressed with how authentic this story was.
Reinaldo Marcus Green: So, I’ll start with the consultants. We had a gentleman by the name of Neville Garrick, who we represent in the film. He had done the album art work, and he also did the lighting for all of the shows. And so Neville was still alive. Rest his soul – he passed away recently. But he was on set every day.

Neville was in the room with Bob. So, we had people that knew Bob and that were in his close circle. They were very, very helpful in, you know, bringing out character details and nuances… of helping us understand what these moments in Bob’s life were like.

When Neville was helping us, obviously he is older now, everybody has their own recollection of what it was like. So you have to… you have to take everything with a grain of salt, but certainly he was there the night Bob got shot, he left, he was the one that drove Judy home. So we knew enough and then we had to fill in the blanks.

there was an outpouring of music, there was an outpouring of this musical genius.

So Neville was a big, a big part of our puzzle. Fae Ellington, who’s a cultural icon in Jamaica, she was there for language and dialect, and to make sure of the historical accuracy of what we were doing. The film takes place in 1976, 1977, and that required a certain understanding of the time period. They use certain words in patois today that they didn’t use back then, for example.

And of course the family helped tremendously. Ziggy was on set pretty much every day. And it was great for us because he walks like his dad, he looks like his dad, he moves like his dad…. Just having that spirit around was really, really helpful.

And, again, it’s usually the characterization. Like, you know, Bob skipped two steps or whatever it was. Those kind of little details that really help add specificity to the performance.

The casting in the film is incredible, particularly the choice to have Kingsley Ben-Adir play the title role.
RMG: Well, I didn’t know Kingsley’s work that well before casting him, or I should say that I didn’t realize that I knew his work. I saw the movie One Night in Miami, but I had forgotten that it was him. And so, you know, when we were searching, we looked everywhere – all over the world – to try to find Bob, and obviously we were looking for a needle in a haystack.

To state the obvious, we were never going to find Bob himself, so I needed someone that had enough of Bob’s attributes. And after about eleven and a half months, maybe a year, Kingsley’s tape showed up. And there were just a lot of really great actors that didn’t even want to tape for the role, because it’s Bob. It’s really scary, you know, and so many things might not go right.

You know, he really captured the look, the feel, the movement of Bob, all of that stuff. And so, when Kingsley’s tape came in, even though he has short hair, and he’s quite a big dude (he’s like 6’2”… he’s a big guy), but still, there was something really interesting about the tape. He had me leaning in, and, you know, not quite grabbing the popcorn, but sort of, that was kind of the feeling… like, man, there’s something really interesting, super intriguing, going on here. It was everything he wasn’t doing, you know? I’d seen so many tapes that were mimics of the Bob interviews online, and he didn’t do that, it was really an interpretation of Bob, and I thought that was very smart of him. And I knew I wanted to meet him, and now, of course, I’m thinking, “okay, if I put him in a wig, and prosthetics, like… how do we get close to evoking Bob?

But he brought that believable baseline character. And so that, that’s really, was the start, you know. But I didn’t know if he could sing, or dance, or do any of that stuff. But I wasn’t concerned about that. I mean, obviously I was— but ultimately it’s about the vulnerability of the performance. I knew if he was a great actor, he’d be able to get the level we needed.

And Kingsley, he did the work. I mean, he lost 40 pounds. He taught himself how to play guitar, how to sing, all the choreography. Just the work that he had to do in seven or eight months, to really just dive into creating Bob.

At the time shown in the film, Jamaica is a nation that is just coming out of colonial rule. Can you talk about that element of the story, and how you incorporated it into the film?
RMG: You know, the first script was a great skeleton for us, and kudos to Terrence [Winter] and [Frank E. Flowers] for getting us there. There was a lot more backstory in their draft. And there was just a lot more movie, to be honest, which was great—if we were making a limited series or something it would have been perfect. It was so, so big, it just was too much story to pack into one film. We were trying to find, like, what is the heart of the movie? What is the movie that we’re going to tell in two, two and a half hours? What’s the most critical time in Bob’s life that we thought would capture the essence of the man?

Now, can you possibly do it all? There’s been 500 books written about Bob. Whose truth is it, right? There are so many stories, you can focus on the Wailers, you can focus on Peter and Bunny. There’s just so many different avenues. But this avenue just felt like the right one for us. It’s 1976, there’s an assassination attempt on Bob’s life… Jamaica was in political turmoil. I didn’t know the intricacies of that when I took this project on, you know? But how do we make that accessible to people that don’t know about Jamaican politics or history? And all the stuff about how the CIA was maybe involved… there’s a lot of, so we had to try to set people in place in time right away. And Bob was at the center of that, but he was not yet a global star. He was a national star. And it was Exodus that really put him on the map, put the music on the map, and that just felt like a critical time to focus on. Like, he went from being just a musician to a revolutionary, truly.

It’s what brought his music to the masses. Now, he also created Kaya at that time, which our movie doesn’t go into, but there was an outpouring of music, there was an outpouring of this musical genius. Obviously, he gets his cancer diagnosis during that time and our movie ends before then, but it just felt like that was the right period of time to try to capture in Bob’s life that gave us some insight.

I’m still learning about him. I mean, you know, I wanted to try to show us the man behind the buttons and the pins and the bags. And, you know, Bob is still something of an enigma to most people. He’s a tricky one to pin down. But hopefully we got some juice from his family, and from things that we didn’t know about.

I understand you premiered in Jamaica. What was the response there like?
RMG: It was incredible. That was incredible. I mean… I was nervous. I was a wreck! So yeah, I was a wreck. That was crazy. Jamaicans… They do not play. Like, they were coming into the theater saying,, “nah.” But then leaving they were like, “you did your thing…” So it was the energy of, ‘we’re okay. We did our thing.’ “It was good,” they said. And “good” in Jamaica is “excellent” anywhere else, I swear! It was very humbling. It’s a humbling place to premiere your movie. They are people who have been through a lot, and the fact that they accepted Kingsley as Bob Marley is a pretty big deal, so I think we did alright.