Yasiin Bey to play jazz trailblazer Thelonious Monk in new biopic

Yasiin Bey, who previously operated under his stage name Mos Def, is confirmed to play revolutionary jazz musician Thelonious Monk.

The casting announcement comes via Rolling Stone. In a statement from the film’s producers, the film, called Thelonious, will focus on “[Monk’s] struggles for musical success, mental illness, and the spiritual love triangle between his wife, Nellie, and one of the world’s richest women, Nica Rothschild.”

Monk, who is the second-most-recorded jazz composer after Duke Ellington, was revered for his groundbreaking improvisational style. In 2006, the musician was awarded a special Pulitzer Prize for “a body of distinguished and innovative musical composition that has had a significant and enduring impact on the evolution of jazz”.

He inspired the work of artists such as Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Charlie Parker.

Thelonious Monk (Credit: Alamy)

In an emailed statement to Rolling Stone, Bey described Monk as “a leader. A Lord. A shape in space. A man from a community of devotion who lives a simple life distant from society.”

Production on the film is due to begin in summer next year. A director for the film is yet to be confirmed. Musician Peter Lord Moreland has written the screenplay, and will put out the film through his production company Jupiter Rising Film, which he co-founded with Alberto Marzan.

On the casting of Bey in the starring role, Marzan said: “When his name was brought up, there was a silence that I will never forget. We all envisioned him.”

The producer said that Bey “lives his life with a vibe not easily found in Hollywood, because he’s not Hollywood, point blank.”

He added: “When he looked at me and said, ‘I am Thelonious,’ I knew we had found him.”

Bey recently premiered a song with Talib Kweli under their outfit Black Star. The song played on The Midnight Miraclea new podcast the two rappers are hosting with Dave Chappelle.