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Unknown to be cast as Notorious B.I.G.

The role of Notorious B.I.G. for an upcoming biopic on the rapper will be filled through an open casting call, the film’s producers told “Notorious,” which has been in the works for nearly seven years, will seek its star by auditioning actors and non-actors alike who resemble the rapper, whose real name was Christopher Wallace. Anyone can submit audition videos beginning 3 a.m. EDT Sunday to http://www.foxsearchlight.com/notorious or http://www.biggiecasting.com. An official announcement of the online casting call will be made Friday by Fox Searchlight Pictures, which in 2005 secured the rights to a film about the slain rapper. Wallace’s mother, Voletta Wallace, and his two former managers, Wayne Barrow and Mark Pitts, are producing the movie.

“As it relates to the individual Christopher Wallace – his looks, his stature, what he represented, the swagger, the sensibility of the man – all those elements are very difficult to find, no matter where you go,” Barrow said Thursday. “In the typical Hollywood world, no one came to mind outside of Forest Whitaker who could capture that essence genuinely.”

Barrow said the film’s producers never approached Whitaker because – though he would have been ideal – at 46-years-old Whitaker is more than twice the age Wallace will be for much of the film. Wallace was gunned down at the age of 24 on March 9, 1997, after a music-industry party in Los Angeles.

“We thought it would be best to open it up to the world and … give somebody the opportunity to step into his shoes and fulfill their own American dream,” said Barrow.

In a statement released to the AP, Voletta Wallace described the qualities the producers are seeking.

“There will only be one Christopher Wallace, but I’m happy that his legacy will open a door for another to walk through,” said Wallace. “I don’t want you to just imitate him. I want to see his swagger, his style, his energy and smile come through.”

Fox Searchlight on Thursday also told the AP that George Tillman will direct. The filmmaker’s previous credits include “Men of Honor” (2000) and “Soul Food” (1997).

Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day,” “Shooter”) was two years ago reported to be close to agreeing to direct. In an interview earlier this year with the AP, Fuqua said he was apprehensive about the degree of control the producers had in developing the script.

“They’re in the record business, they’re not in the film business,” Fuqua said then.

Barrow said he remains friends with Fuqua and that timing was the only issue.

The script was written by Cheo Hodari Coker and Reggie Rock Bythewood. Coker, a hip-hop journalist, wrote the biography “Unbelievable: The Life, Death, and Afterlife of the Notorious B.I.G.”

The film intends to focus on the Wallace not seen in his public life, zeroing in on “the humanity within Christopher himself,” said Barrow. He added that no real-life character in Wallace’s world will play himself, given the passage of time.

The producers hope to begin production this fall.

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