LOS ANGELES — The late Mexican-American singer and activist Jenni Rivera always dreamed of a biopic about her turbulent and inspirational life. Now, seven years after her untimely death, that dream is coming true.
A feature film based on Rivera’s life is officially in the works from Jenni Rivera Enterprises, Mucho Mas Media and De Line Pictures, who announced the project in a joint statement Tuesday. The untitled film will endeavor to capture the essence of the superstar who was as admired for her soulful voice as she was for her openness about her experiences with abuse, sexual assault and finding success in a male-dominated industry.
“It’s been a long time coming,” her sister Rosie Rivera said in an interview Monday.
Although it’s in the early stages and no cast or director has been set, screenwriter Kate Lanier, known for the Tina Turner biopic “What’s Love Got To Do With It” and “Set It Off,” is working on a script.
Jenni Rivera died in December 2012 at the age of 43 in a plane crash that also killed six others. She left behind five children and two grandchildren.
Known as the “Diva de la Banda,” the California-born daughter of Mexican immigrants was at the height of her career when she died. She was one of the most successful female singers in grupero, a male-dominated regional style influenced by the norteño, banda and ranchero styles. She had sold some 15 million records and received multiple Latin Grammy nominations and two Billboard Mexican Music Awards.
Rosie Rivera remembers that people started asking about a biopic days after her sister’s death, but that it was too early then for the family and her children. She knew eventually it would become a reality though: She and her sister used to talk about a movie and silly dream casting scenarios (Jenni wanted Costa Rican actress Maribel Guardia and Rosie picked Charlize Theron).
But beyond glamour casting, Jenni Rivera knew that her story on film might help other women. Rosie Rivera said she remembers her sister crying one day about the “love of her life” whose drug issues made it impossible for them to be together.
“She was crying like a normal girl and then a few minutes later wipes the tears from her face and says, ‘I know why, I know why: It’s because I can help other women who have drug addict husbands or lovers and my story will help them,'” Rosie Rivera recalled. “I loved her strength. No matter what she was going through, she always found a lesson in it.”
The film will likely be primarily in English with some Spanish, since that’s the language they spoke with their father. It also will feature some unreleased Jenni Rivera music, Rosie Rivera said.
“Jenni’s story is universal in themes of love, loss, success, and cultural change,” said producer Donald De Line in a statement.
Mucho Mas Media partners Javier Chapa and Simon Wise added: “The film will honor her artistry and commitment to inspire and help people of all cultures to accomplish their dreams.”
There is also a documentary expected later this year from Emilio Estefan that will focus on the last six days of Rivera’s life, including her last concert, performed in Monterrey, Mexico, the night before she died.
The biopic, which does not have a planned release date yet, has become timelier too with the current political climate and the impact of the #MeToo movement.
“I think it is so very important, especially now, that she is a Latina born to immigrant parents,” Rosie Rivera said. “A woman, an underdog, daughter of immigrant parents who lived the American Dream.”
“I remember her tears, and I want her whole 43 years of what she went through to touch somebody,” Rivera said. “Every single tear, I want it to be worth it.”
Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr