The delays — prompted by the departure of two potential directors and a legal battle with Shakur's estate over his life rights — allowed Shipp to properly study acting, and he was unexpectedly reunited with a teacher from his youth.
Shipp, 28, appears in nearly every frame of "All Eyez on Me," which tracks Shakur's life from his teens to his violent death in 1996, with nods to his activist upbringing by his Black Panther parents.
Hutton, a former Death Row Records producer who worked with Shakur, said he needed to cast a lead actor audiences would believe as Tupac, and Shipp was the one.
"If I'd cast any one of the actors Hollywood was pushing me to use, people would have spent the first hour of the movie wondering, 'Why is this guy trying to be Tupac?'"
Shipp said he's been inspired by the experience, and by Shakur's indefatigable work ethic: He recorded hundreds of songs and made six movies before his death at age 25.
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