How Kingsley Ben-Adir transforms into an icon in “Bob Marley: One Love”

When it came to picking who would embody the role of his father Bob Marley for the movie Bob Marley: One Love, Ziggy Marley only had this to say about Kingsley Ben-Adir. “He was the best, simple,” Ziggy says. “But it was also about, ‘Who can hold this?’ Because it’s a very heavy burden. When I met Kingsley, I knew this was a man who could. He had the right spirit, energy, ability, respect and commitment.”

Watch Ziggy Marley talk about his father here:


Undertaking the role was going to be a feat. “It was not an easy task, capturing the essence of Bob,” Ziggy says, “because Bob is not just a normal, everyday guy,” Ziggy admits. “He was somebody who was unique. We were making a Hollywood movie, but Bob is not a Hollywood person.” In turn, Kingsley Ben-Adir took the blessing of the Marley family very seriously. He was firmly against auditioning for the role if the family wasn’t part of the production.  “Because it wouldn’t have felt right,” explains the actor.

Not only did Ben-Adir get the approval of the Marley family, but in preparing for the role, he got to hang out with them numerous times. On one occasion, as would be expected of someone who would play a notable football fan like Bob Marley, Ben-Adir watched a football match with Ziggy -- a memory the actor says he will cherish forever.

For the role, Kingsley Ben-Adir would completely transform himself to fit the image of the legendary musician. He learned to play the guitar, and studied how to move and speak like Bob Marley. The greatest challenge was the voice, according to director Reinaldo Marcus Green. “There is patois [the dialect of a specific region; in this case Marley’s hometown of Nine Mile, Jamaica] and then there’s what Bob did,” Green says. “There are the intonations, the nuance of the language, how Bob arranged certain words and sentences. Kingsley spent eight months just listening to Bob Marley, like a record in his head.”

The team enlisted the help of another Jamaican icon to help with the complexities of the Marley patois: Fae E. Ellington. Her first-hand knowledge of the nuances of her country’s culture and the musician would be vital to the film. “My job was to make sure everyone in the movie talked with heart and authenticity,” Ellington says, who worked with Ben-Adir over months to coach the actor about the Marley patois. “Bob is a cultural icon, so we worked assiduously on it. In every language there are nuances, but I’m convinced that the Jamaican language has more nuances than any other. I really believe that. And I am so impressed with Kingsley. In Jamaica, we are very, very critical. But I think people are going to be very pleased when they see and hear him.”

For Bob Marley’s unique movement and posture, Ben-Adir was coached by choreographer and head of movement Polly Bennett. From Rami Malek’s Freddie Mercury (in Bohemian Rhapsody) to Austin Butler’s Elvis (in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis), to Naomi Ackie’s Whitney Houston (in I Wanna Dance With Somebody), Bennett has been teaching actors how to move like icons. “Everything Kingsley does is coming from an authentic place,” Bennett says of her and Ben-Adir’s process here. “It’s about excavating why Bob Marley moves the way he does, which means we can help the character development that comes from the physical side.”

Along with movement and voice, comes playing the guitar like Marley, and Ben Martinez was tasked on teaching Ben-Adir on how to play the guitar not only just like the musician would, but in his own words, “understand the role that Bob has within the band when he plays.” 

As a result, Ben-Adir embodied Bob Marley in a way that captured his essence, without being just a copy. “We searched every corner of the world. What you’re looking for is someone to embody Bob Marley. You can never recreate him. You can’t bring him back. But you can bring his essence back. What Kingsley did was interpret Bob. An actor acting, not mimicking. It was masterful,” director Green says.

Watch the making of a worldwide icon as Bob Marley: One Love opens in Philippine cinemas on March 13. 

About Bob Marley: One Love

BOB MARLEY: ONE LOVE celebrates the life and music of an icon who inspired generations through his message of love and unity. On the big screen for the first time, discover Bob’s powerful story of overcoming adversity and the journey behind his revolutionary music. Produced in partnership with the Marley family and starring Kingsley Ben-Adir as the legendary musician and Lashana Lynch as his wife Rita, BOB MARLEY: ONE LOVE is in theatres March 13,, 2024.

Paramount Pictures Presents

A Plan B Entertainment / State Street Pictures / Tuff Gong Pictures Production


Executive Producers: Brad Pitt, Richard Hewitt, Orly Marley, Matt Solodky

Produced by: Robert Teitel, p.g.a., Dede Gardner,p.g.a., Jeremy Kleiner, p.g.a., Ziggy Marley, p.g.a., Rita Marley, Cedella Marley

Story by: Terence Winter & Frank E. Flowers 

Screenplay by: Terence Winter & Frank E. Flowers and Zach Baylin & Reinaldo Marcus Green 

Directed by: Reinaldo Marcus Green

Starring: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Lashana Lynch, James Norton, Tosin Cole, Umi Myers, Anthony Welsh, Nia Ashi, Aston Barrett Jr., Anna-Sharé Blake, Gawaine “J-Summa” Campbell, Naomi Cowan, Alexx A-Game, Michael Gandolfini, Quan-Dajai Henriques, David Kerr, Hector Roots Lewis, Abijah “Naki Wailer” Livingston, Nadine Marshall, Sheldon Shepherd, Andrae Simpson, Stefan A.D Wade

In Philippine cinemas starting March 13, Bob Marley: One Love is distributed in the Philippines by Paramount Pictures through Columbia Pictures. Connect with #BobMarleyMovie #OneLoveMovie and tag @paramountpicsph

Photo and Video Credit: “Paramount Pictures International”

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