'12 Years a Slave' Oscar winner spotlights rock legend Jimi Hendrix

Thu Mar 13, 2014 4:44pm EDT
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By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - At nearly the same time filming of "12 Years a Slave" began in Louisiana, the man who would win an Academy Award for writing its screenplay was in Dublin to start shooting his movie about the year that changed the life of rock guitar icon Jimi Hendrix.

"Jimi: All Is by My Side" from writer and director John Ridley was shown this week at the South by Southwest film festival in Austin, Texas. The small film drew much greater attention thanks to Ridley's Academy Award.

"There is this added thing now, and people will see it through that prism of the Oscar," Ridley, who won the award for best adapted screenplay for "12 Years a Slave," said in an interview this week.

The movie, starring the hip hop duo Outkast's André Benjamin as Hendrix, looks at a year in the life of the rock legend when he was an unknown backup guitarist living in New York who moved to London and became a budding star.

The film opens in the United States in June.

Ridley, who wrote and directed the Hendrix film, said there were parallels between Hendrix and Solomon Northup, the man whose narrative was the basis for "12 Years a Slave": Both men were struggling with ways to express themselves.

Northup's struggle was keeping his soul alive while trapped as a slave. Hendrix had to meld rock, blues, jazz, and rhythm and blues into a musical style to call his own.

"What must people don't realize is that when Hendrix was 24 years old, he was pretty much washed up," Ridley said.   Continued...

Writer John Ridley holds up his award for best adapted screenplay for "12 Years a Slave" as he arrives with his wife Gayle at the 2014 Vanity Fair Oscars Party in West Hollywood, California March 3, 2014. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok