apper, actor, poet, some say revolutionary: Tupac Shakur contained multitudes in his too-brief 25 years on Earth. He dated Madonna, beefed with Biggie Smalls, survived a robbery shooting, released a No. 1 album while serving a prison sentence for sexual abuse—enough out-loud living for an O.J. Simpson-style miniseries. Director Benny Douglas inherited the challenge of conveying all of Tupac’s triumphs and contradictions for next month’s biopic All Eyez on Me. Starring Demetrius Shipp Jr., an actor with an eerie resemblance to the hip-hop icon, the film promises to touch on everything in Tupac’s life with all the assurance of 2015’s Straight Outta Compton.
Professionally known as Benny Boom (Next Day Air, S.W.A.T.: Firefight), Douglas has lensed over 200 music videos—including clips by Nicki Minaj, Nas, and Robin Thicke—and began his entertainment career as an aspiring rapper himself. Born and raised in Philadelphia, the director spent most of the 1990s in a hip-hop milieu as an unofficial member of Channel Live. (His nom de rap was inspired by lightweight boxer Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini.) Athletically stocky, Douglas once served as security on Spike Lee’s Clockers before finally scoring assistant director jobs for music video legends Hype Williams, Director X, and Paul Hunter. We shared some spirited conversation as he worked on last-minute editing in Los Angeles.