Deadline has learned that Warner Bros. spent upwards of $80 million to acquire the script for the biopic What’s Going On about Marvin Gaye, written by poet and playwright Marcus Gardley. Allen Hughes has been tapped to direct. His previous directorial credits include The Book of Eli and 1993’s Menace II Society, both of which were done with his brother Albert.
“This is so personal for me,” Hughes said. “When I made my first film with my brother, we were fortunate to get What’s Going On into the trailer for Menace 2 Society, and it was a game changer in elevating the marketing of that film. Every film of mine but the period film From Hell had some Marvin Gaye in it, and I’ve just always connected to him.”
“He’s the artist’s artist, with this ethereal voice that just comes out of the heavens,” he continued. “There have been plenty of great artists, and then Marvin, in his own lane.”
Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine will serve as producers. Their ties to Hughes date back to his work on the 2017 HBO miniseries The Defiant Ones about Dre and Iovine’s partnership. “You’ve heard of all these big name directors that have tried for 35 years to consolidate these rights,” Hughes said. “This started with Dre, saying let’s do this together, and then Jimmy came on, and Andrew Lazar, and we worked with the estate, with Motown and some other things that needed to be tied down, and we got it done.”
Deadline reports the biopic will not be presented in the traditional sense, but rather a “musical odyssey and theatrical experience” celebrating the late Motown icon, highlighting the women in his life who influenced his career and inspired his greatest love songs. The film will get into the turbulent relationship with his father, in addition to other events from his past that shaped his last tour.
What’s Going On will go into production next year with a tentative 2023 release in theaters and on HBO Max.