Jacob Mendez
Jacob Mendez

Kingsley Ben-Adir: The “Peaky Blinders” star played Bob Marley

And then, of course, there was the Rastafarian influence, “which was huge for Bob,” Sheppard says. “Rastafarians in the 1960s had a lot of military elements in their clothes. Old military shirts, button-up trousers, medals, berets. Bob loved his army green jacket. He didn’t really pay much attention to fashion. He just created fashion that people liked.” “they followed.”

Marley’s interest in the Rastafarian movement began in 1966, when he was in Delaware with his mother and missed a visit to Jamaica by Haile Selassie, the Emperor of Ethiopia, whom Rastafaris consider a messiah. In the following years, Bob’s beliefs became an integral part of himself, his lyrics and his life.

Rastafari, as Ziggy Marley says, draws many ideas from other ancient philosophies. ” Rastafari is a force that unites the Earth. Like my father’s music, the message. We do not conform to certain norms because we are free.”

Perhaps the biggest challenge was playing with the cadences of Marley’s voice, finding the rhythm of his very specific speech patterns. “It’s the dialect of a particular region; in this case, Marley’s hometown of Nine Mile, Jamaica, and then there’s what Bob did,” Green says. “There are intonations, nuances of language, the way Bob put certain words and sentences together. Kingsley spent eight months listening to Bob Marley like records in his head.”

To help Ben-Adir fully absorb the intricacies of Marley’s voice, the production enlisted the help of another Jamaican legend: Fae A. Ellington. In 1976, Ellington worked on a radio magazine for the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation.

Ellington interviewed for the first time Neville Garrick, who would become both one of Marley’s closest friends and the illustrator of his stunning album covers. Ellington invited him to her show after seeing an exhibition of his earlier work and being enchanted by it.

Over the years since ’76, Ellington has seen firsthand what this man and his music mean to so many. Ellington was brought on board because she is now a Jamaican language coach.

“My job was to make sure everyone in the movie was speaking with heart and authenticity,” Ellington says. She worked with Ben-Adir for months to capture all the quirks and idiosyncrasies of Marley’s distinctive voice.

“Bob is a cultural icon, so we worked hard on that. There are nuances in every language, but I believe the Jamaican language has more nuances than any other. I truly believe that. I’m very impressed with Kingsley. In Jamaica, we are very, very critical .But I think people will be very pleased to see and hear it,” Ellington says.

“The thing about patois,” Ben-Adir emphasizes, “is that it is not a dialect. It’s a language. We tried to find a way to make sure the scenes were being played clearly so that you could understand the emotion of what Bob was saying.”

To many people, says Norton, “Bob Marley was a happy guy, playing cool tunes, full of hope and love, all the things that made him so popular with hippies and college students. But he was more than that. He had fire in him. He was a revolutionary who he wanted to change the world for the better. But it was a struggle. Kingsley also has fire in him,” says Ziggy. “Kingsley always wanted to get it right. He fought to get it right, he cared so much. I love that about him.”

The way the real Marley moved on stage is as iconic as the music he created. In some ways it wasn’t even a dance, the music was sending him to an almost spiritual plane, taking over his body.

“Bob was trance-like on stage,” says choreographer Polly Bennett. “It takes a lot of mental strength (for Kingsley) to get through these songs. People say about Bob Marley, ‘Oh, he’s so slow. He’s so loose on stage.’ But he’s really not. He’s very, very connected to the music “.

Bennett is the choreographer behind the incarnations of some of the most respected artists in the world of music. From Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury (in “Bohemian Rhapsody”), through Austin Butler as Elvis (in Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis”), to Naomi Ackie as Whitney Houston (in “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”).

“Everything Kingsley does comes from a place of authenticity,” says Bennett of her and Ben-Adir’s process. “It’s about discovering why Bob Marley moves the way he does, which means we can help with character development that comes from physicality.”

Bennett says he “strives to understand why people move the way they do… It’s not about copying something; it’s about how Bob was thinking and feeling at that moment. It’s about why he does those things.” for which he became famous on stage.

Both Bennett and Ben-Adir argue that it is this detail and discovery that gives the latter’s performance its true artistic integrity. Just as Marley’s music broke the mold, so did the way he performed it.

“We’re kind of detectives,” he says. “And our job is to turn (what we discovered) into something practical that Kingsley can use on set. We want Bob Marley fans to know that we paid attention to all aspects of his various performances.”

Green remains impressed with what Bennett and Ben-Adir have accomplished in capturing the spirit of Bob Marley, both on and off stage.

“Everything is movement,” says Bennett. “The way Bob moves on stage comes from his life off stage. And some of it is a huge test of endurance. A number like Exodus, which is almost seven and a half minutes long, uses a huge amount of energy, as well as lip syncing, audience engagement and guitar playing.

Ben Martinez was responsible for teaching Ben-Adir to play guitar. The accomplished guitar teacher worked with Ben-Adir so that he could, as Martinez says, “not only play like Bob, but understand the role that Bob has in the band when he plays.” In other words, give the actor a crash course in music theory as well as the practical aspects of filming. “Obviously Bob is a famous musician with a very specific voice, but you don’t necessarily think of him as a guitarist,” says Martinez. “But he was an outstanding musician. Bob played everything with his thumb, which is quite Hendrix-esque, including chords that you wouldn’t necessarily think were played with the thumb, like A-shaped chords.”

Ben-Adir recreated these details in painstaking detail, so much so that when you see Ben-Adir perform as Marley in the film, Martinez says you’ll be seeing a real Bob Marley performance up close, from your fingertips up.

“Hats off to Kingsley, man,” Norton says of what his co-worker did. “He took on a hell of a lot and gave it his all. I’ve never seen an actor so committed. He really put in the work and it shows.”

But perhaps the best indicator of how successfully Ben-Adir became Bob Marley is David Kerr, aka Davo. A hugely successful musician, Kerr is the son of Junior Marvin, guitarist and backing vocalist for Bob Marley and The Wailers. “It was like Kingsley carried this energy,” Kerr says of Ben-Adir. “I feel like Bob overshadows this whole project. Like he’s controlling everything from above. And Kingsley is so humble and passionate in portraying Bob’s true identity.”