Home Entertainment Kingsley Ben-Adir takes on Bob Marley in the musical biopic

Kingsley Ben-Adir takes on Bob Marley in the musical biopic

Kingsley Ben-Adir takes on Bob Marley in the musical biopic


With songs of unity and empowerment, Bob Marley brought the music of a tiny Caribbean island to the world. The infectious rhythm of reggae, and his lyrical message of peace during political strife in his native Jamaica, made Bob Marley a legend. His story is now coming to life on film.

“He means so much to so many people,” said Kingsley Ben-Adir, who plays Marley in the upcoming musical biopic, “Bob Marley: One Love,” which opens on Valentine’s Day. “So there was a lot of instructions for me. You know, ‘Remember, he’s this. Remember, he’s not that. Don’t do this. Don’t do that.”

Ben-Adir said, as an actor, it was a lot of pressure.

“It’s like, because the messaging was, when he was in the studio he didn’t mess around. And then, there’s a lot of people saying, you know, you have to remember that there were other sides to him. He was very gentle and loving and, like, so popular and funny,” he said. “And I think with an icon like Bob, it can be challenging because his public persona is so strong.”

For Ben-Adir, learning to speak Jamaican Patois was the biggest challenge as he took on the role. He said that he listened to one of Marley’s interviews again and again as he prepared for the role. The actor also prepared at a dance studio in London. Returning to the studio after filming the movie, “it still fills me with fear,” he said.

Ben-Adir did not sing, dance or play the guitar before he transformed into Marley, a man known for all three.

“When Bob moves and when he sings and when he’s on stage, there’s something really profound going on,” he said.

The film – from Paramount Pictures, a division of CBS’ parent company – was produced in partnership with the Marley family, including Bob Marley’s son, musician Ziggy Marley.

“Bob Marley: One Love,” a new musical biopic about the late reggae legend, premieres on Valentine’s Day. 

CBS News

At the Marley homestead, which is now a museum in Kingston, Jamaica, Ziggy Marley said that he originally wanted a Jamaican person to star in the movie.

“We looked wide. Wide and far,” he said. “But what it was with Kingsley, it was just a personal thing where you’re looking at the tapes and, you know, you see one, you say, ‘Eh.’ You see two, you say, ‘Eh.’ And then you see Kingsley, like, ‘Hm.'”
Ben-Adir held Ziggy Marley’s attention, he said, even though the actor is taller and physically different from his father.

“In my mind this is an artistic expression of Bob,” said Ziggy Marley. “So, the height, that never matter. Because yeah, him taller than Bob. But to me, Bob was a giant.”

Bob Marley was five-foot-six and Ben-Adir is six-foot-two. The actor said he dropped about 40 pounds for the screen test.

“And it was too much. I felt sick. I wasn’t sleeping,” said Ben-Adir. “It wasn’t going to be sustainable. There were a lot of conversations with the family where it was like, we’re just trying to find Bob’s essence and his spirit in this film. You can’t copy Bob.”

The movie explores Marley’s spiritual side, Rastafari principles of equality and social justice, and his push for peace in the 1970s after years of political violence in post-colonial Jamaica. It centers on the making of the album, “Exodus,” which TIME Magazine would later anoint “album of the century.”

Ziggy Marley said the film focuses on this period in his father’s life because “it was life-changing for him.” In 1976, armed men attempted to assassinate Bob Marley just days before he was to perform at a concert designed to curb violence among rival groups.

“Somebody trying to kill you changes you. Somebody’s trying to kill you makes you think things. Makes you have emotions that you never had before,” said Ziggy Marley. “This is a time period where he came to a enlightenment, a conclusion about his purpose and his sense of who him is. His life is for him, he doesn’t want it. His life is for people.”

Island Records founder Chris Blackwell is largely credited for taking Bob Marley, and reggae music, beyond Jamaica. He’s portrayed by James Norton in the film.

“Instinctively, from the first time I met him, I just knew there was something there,” Blackwell said of Marley. Now 86, he shared memories of their time working together from his Strawberry Hill Hotel outside of Kingston, where Marley came just after the shooting.

Blackwell got emotional remembering Marley taking the stage in Italy, before more than 100,000 people.

“He was barely touching the ground. He was like floating to it, or mauve that was my image of him, because I just saw him, just going,” Blackwell trailed off, through tears.

“Wow. Oh, boy. It’s a lot, you know, because it’s, it’s not often…super rare that there is somebody who has what he had and to be able to touch the world,” he said.

Marley died at just 36 years old, in 1981, after battling a rare form of melanoma.
“The last thing my father said to me was in the hospital: ‘On your way up, take me up. On your way down and don’t let me down,'” said Ziggy Marley. And, for him, making this film is another sort of Bob Marley record.

“We have a chance to expand his legacy and expand the understanding of him as a human being,” he said. “But, most importantly, to expose the message to more people. The message of love, the message of unity, which the world desperately needs now.”


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