Thespian Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def) was named as the star in the upcoming biopic Thelonious, based on the pioneering jazz legend Thelonious Monk. The production would be handled by the L.A.-based company Jupiter Rising Film, and work on the movie was announced to begin in Summer 2022. “Thelonious Sphere Monk. A leader. A Lord. A shape in space,” Bey expressed in an email to Rolling Stone. “A man from a community of devotion who lives a simple life distant from society. The adjectives. can never be nouns. Love. is a verb. The Future has already happened. And Forever. is a current event. Jupiter and team.”
Jupiter Rising Film co-founder Alberto Marzan, a self-professed lifelong fan of Monk, also shared his enthusiasm for Bey’s casting. “When his name was brought up, there was a silence that I will never forget,” Marzan told Rolling Stone. “We all envisioned him. This needed to be somebody that understood Thelonious’ music on an intimate level. It needed to be someone who understood the life and challenges of being a musician; a Black man in this universe. Yasiin has Thelonious’ morals and focuses on what matters… When [Yasiin] looked at me and said, ‘I am Thelonious,’ I knew we had found him.”
But not everyone was happy with the news of Thelonious, especially the jazz legend’s own son T.S. Monk, who expressed his furor in an email to Pitchfork. “This project and its announcement are totally unauthorized! I hate the script and I control the music in Thelonious’ catalog,” he wrote, denouncing the project. “There is no involvement by anyone in the Monk family with this project, and we actually condemn the effort.”
So this morning, Bey posted a 4-minute video on Instagram to address the reports of the Monk family’s disapproval and his newfound stance on the biopic. “So let me be clear: if the Monk estate is not happy with it, if Mr. Monk III is not happy with it, then neither am I,” he said, effectively putting a stop to Thelonious for the foreseeable future. “To be clear, I was given every indication by the production company that the family was on board, [it] was one of my primary questions… [and] more important that the family supported the project. I took them at their word, and clearly, that wasn’t the case.”
Watch the video above for Yasiin Bey’s full response and tell us what you think.