The Jimi Hendrix biopic starring André 3000 won’t hit theaters until June, but the little footage we’ve already seen shows promise. In a clip shared earlier this month, the OutKast rapper evokes charm and humility as the late guitar god, effortlessly flirting with actress Imogen Poots, who plays model Linda Keith, the subject of the Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday.” But, really, André’s charisma was never in question — his chops as a guitarist, however, inspired some healthy skepticism.
“The idea of anyone playing Hendrix, let alone a right-handed guitarist, was one of the greatest challenges of the project,” Danny Bramson, producer for Jimi Hendrix: All By My Side, told Billboard. “We bet the house on our one and only choice, André Benjamin.”
To prepare for the part, André 3000 underwent grueling practice sessions, playing guitar for six hours every day. “I found a really patient teacher and put together a regimen for André when he came out to Los Angeles,” Bramson recalled. “He sat in a small studio, six hours a day, putting in dedication [to learn how to play left-handed]. His guitarmanship had to carry the idea of grace and fluidity. [Writer-director John Ridley] and I declared that we didn’t want to have the camera cropped on his face and not the guitar. He kept working in a rehearsal room throughout the production.”
Bramson added that not having the rights to Hendrix’s songs was, understandably, the project’s biggest obstacle. “The most serious of the challenges was the responsibility of creating and recording new and original material that puts you in the environment of interpreting Hendrix,” he said. “I needed a guitarist with the skill and dexterity, but also that X factor of malleability where you can transcend your ego and personal styles and licks and let the musicology of Hendrix shine.”
That task fell on guitarist Waddyy Wachtel, bassist Leland Sklar, and drummer Kenny Aronoff, who created original music for the film while trying to capture Hendrix’s spirit. “I was never preoccupied with getting the iconic material,” Bramson said. “I felt so strongly in trying to go for interpretation of Hendrix and the musical environment that surrounded him and mirrored his sense of finding himself as a guitarist.”
Jimi Hendrix: All By My Side will be screened at this year’s South By Southwest conference, ahead of its proper theatrical release. For a glimpse at the movie, watch the clip below.