Since 2010, Paul Giamatti has been one of Hollywood’s most prolific actors, appearing in 19 films in the past five years. Some were great (12 Years a Slave, Win Win), and some were not so great (Rock of Ages, The Hangover Part II). However, regardless of the role, Giamatti was almost always a high point of the film. Now, the trusted character actor (and occasional leading man) has an exciting new role in his roster, as Jerry Heller, the controversial manager of the pioneering hip hop group N.W.A., in the music biopic Straight Outta Compton.
Before he managed the influential group, Heller represented pop acts like Journey, REO Speedwagon and Marvin Gaye. After he co-founded Ruthless Records with N.W.A. member Eazy-E, Heller oversaw one of the genre’s defining records by the group, one which shares its title with this biopic.
However, he later became synonymous with ripping off the rappers. Several of the N.W.A. members alleged Heller had mismanaged their money in the wake of their success. Dr. Dre even complained to Rolling Stone magazine that he did not receive any cash in 1992 and was broke. Some credit Heller’s business schemes as the reason the group broke up.
Giamatti is no stranger to playing flamboyant managers (Rock of Ages) or manipulative industry people (Big Fat Liar), and so he should give Straight Outta Compton a lot of pedigree. The film comes from director F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job), but more significantly, N.W.A. members Ice Cube and Dr. Dre are on board as producers. Straight Outta Compton will likely not paint Heller with kind colors as a result of their involvement.
The biopic is currently shooting in L.A., where O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Cube’s son) is playing a younger version of Ice Cube, Corey Hawkins is Dr. Dre and Jason Mitchell will portray Eazy-E.
Straight Outta Compton is slated for release on August 14, 2015.