The N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton has found its Jerry Heller. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Paul Giamatti has signed on to play the N.W.A. manager and Ruthless Records co-founder in the upcoming film about the pioneering hip-hop group.
Giamatti joins a cast that includes Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E and Marcus Callender as Dr. Dre, with Ice Cube’s son O’Shea Jackson playing his father. The film will be directed by F. Gary Gray and produced by Ice Cube.
Heller played a pivotal, though contentious, role in N.W.A., after co-founding Ruthless Records with Eazy-E in 1986. He served as the group’s manager and oversaw the success of their 1988 album Straight Outta Compton, but ended up in a financial dispute with Ice Cube, who claimed Heller had cheated him out of royalties, and later Dr. Dre. Heller was famously lampooned in the opening of Dre’s “Dre Day” video and the subject of some controversial lines in Ice Cube’s track “No Vaseline.”
“I was broke,” Dre complained to Rolling Stone about his troubles with Ruthless and its manager in a 1993 profile. “I didn’t receive one fuckin’ quarter in the year of ’92, because Ruthless spent the year trying to figure out ways not to pay me so that I’d come back on my hands and knees. If I had to go back home living with my mom, that wasn’t going to happen.”
Before his involvement with West Coast rap in the 1980s, Heller worked with acts including Van Morrison, Marvin Gaye and Journey, and he helped Pink Floyd and Elton John book their first American tours.
Straight Outta Compton, which will be set during N.W.A.’s rise in the mid-1980s, is slated for release on August 14th, 2015.