Bob Marley: One Love – Four things to know about Kinglsey Ben-Adir’s latest film | Ents & Arts News

Feb 17, 2024 | Entertainment, News

Fresh off the back of playing Basketball Ken in Greta Gerwig’s box-office hit Barbie, Kingsley Ben-Adir has transformed into the iconic Jamaican artist Bob Marley for his new film.

The biopic looks at the life of the Redemption Song singer over a three-year period through his music, career and battle with melanoma.

Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, the feature focuses on three years of the reggae star’s life, from 1976 to 1978, and includes archive footage of the star.

The final project was years in the making with Marley’s family struggling to find the right person to represent their husband, father, and grandfather. Previous directors had been connected to a biopic of the star over the years, including Martin Scorsese and Jonathan Demme, but each failed to get it off the ground.

Here’s four things to know about Bob Marley: One Love

This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Kingsley Ben-Adir in "Bob Marley: One Love." (Chiabella James/Paramount Pictures via AP)
Kingsley Ben-Adir in the title role. Pic: Chiabella James/Paramount Pictures via AP

Kingsley Ben-Adir’s preparation for the role

British actor Kingsley Ben-Adir had just finished filming the Marvel mini-series Secret Invasion when he booked the role of Bob Marley and went straight into filming Greta Gerwig’s Barbie.

Initially, he believed that he only had 10 weeks to transform into the reggae legend and went into “panic mode”.

Ben-Adir created a mini workstation with an acoustic guitar and a laptop hidden behind the Barbie set’s Mojo Dojo Casa House to help him prepare.

He began to teach himself how to play through instructional videos on YouTube – and then hired a teacher to help him improve. He even tried his hand at songwriting.

“It was so bad,” Ben-Adir admits, saying it made him understand more the significance of Marley’s talents.

“Bob made hit after hit after hit and to write that many songs of that quality in that short space of time, there’s not many people on the planet who can do that.”

This image released by Paramount Pictures shows producer Ziggy Marley, left, and Kingsley Ben-Adir  on the set of "Bob Marley: One Love." (Chiabella James/Paramount Pictures via AP)
Producer Ziggy Marley, left, and Ben-Adir on set. Pic: Chiabella James/Paramount Pictures via AP

Bob Marley’s family involvement

The late singer’s family are executive producers on Bob Marley: One Love and were an integral part of finding the right actor to play him.

Ziggy Marley revealed they had previously conducted a worldwide search to find someone from Jamaica who could speak Patois.

The son of the music icon admitted to Entertainment Tonight that Ben-Adir wasn’t their first choice, but they saw something in his audition.

He said: “We were looking for someone that could have the magnetism to hold the attention, so he was the one who had my attention and I’m Bob’s son.”

The Jamming artist’s family and friends took part in the production of the biopic and were on-hand for the actors throughout.

Director Reinaldo Marcus Green says it was a blessing to have access to people who were there in the real-life moments depicted in the film.

“They helped our film become richer, in front of and behind the camera and they were protective of their dad in the best way.”

The director explains that Marley’s family would consult on the style of clothes and give attention to detail on smaller elements that “added dimension to the film”.

This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Kingsley Ben-Adir, left, and Lashana Lynch in "Bob Marley: One Love." (Chiabella James/Paramount Pictures via AP)
Ben-Adir stars alongside Lashana Lynch in the biopic. Pic: Chiabella James/Paramount Pictures via AP

The use of Patois

Patois, the dialogue of Jamaica, is used throughout the biopic and its inclusion was a dealbreaker for one of the film’s stars.

“That’s actually one of the first questions I asked Reinaldo Marcus Green when I met him before reading the script, before auditioning, before even knowing if I had an audition,” says Lashana Lynch who plays Rita Marley in the feature.

“There’s absolutely no way that I would sign up for a movie that would be a watered-down version of my own accent. I’m Jamaican. It would just be against everything that I believe in.”

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Lashana Lynch says there’s no way she would have been part of the new Bob Marley film if they decided to do a ‘watered-down’ version of the Jamaican accent.

Green agrees and believes it would have been “inauthentic” and a “disaster” to anglicise the tone of the film but understood that using solely Patois could make the project inaccessible to a wider audience.

There had been discussions within the cast and crew about including subtitles, but Green’s thought process was that if the wider audience understood every third word, the emotions of the film would translate the rest.

That sentiment was echoed by Ben-Adir.

“Half of the world don’t even understand the full context of the lyrics but we still feel it – that’s the power of Bob’s music that we don’t even need to understand everything he’s saying, we feel the vibration.”

This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Kingsley Ben-Adir in "Bob Marley: One Love." (Chiabella James/Paramount Pictures via AP)
Pic: Chiabella James/Paramount Pictures via AP

On location filming

The film opens in 1976 in Jamaica – a time of political division in the independent nation. Marley was already a star by then and had tried to remain politically neutral while political shootings occurred across Kingston.

As rivalries intensified, the Jamaican artist organised a concert for peace. Two days before the show, seven armed men broke into the star’s home and shot both Bob and Rita Marley.

After the attempt on his life, Marley moved to London and recorded his album Exodus.

Green says there was no question filming had to take place on location to both honour the musical icon and the story itself.

“Where he was created, where his artistry was created, where his relationship, his marriage was created, they were really like anchoring points for him. So, it would be a little bit of an injustice if we didn’t film there,” says Lynch.

Bob Marley: One Love is in cinemas now.

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