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Notorious B.I.G. Actor Cast

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Mar 06, 2008 | 4:35am EST

A little-known New York rapper will portray slain star Notorious B.I.G. in a biopic of the late hip-hop icon's life.

Producers Fox Searchlight--who wanted to avoid recruiting a well-known name--picked Brooklyn-based Jamal Woolard out of 100 hopefuls for the film, which will document the tragic rapper's childhood, his rise to fame and his untimely 1997 death in a Los Angeles drive-by shooting.

Directed by George Tillman Jr., the film--entitled Notorious--goes into production later this month and is set for release in January 2009.

The producers held an open casting call last fall in the hope of finding a realistic Notorious B.I.G. lookalike who could imitate the late star's rapping style, rather than hire a professional actor to play the part. Reggae star Sean Kingston and rapperĀ Beanie Sigel were among the stars turned down.

Woolard--also known as Gravy--released a number of albums on independent labels in the 1990s before being signed by Warner Bros. In 1999, he was involved in a New York radio station shooting, but survived the attack.

Notorious B.I.G.'s mother, Voletta Wallace--who refers to her late son by his real name, Christopher Wallace--insists "Jamal's charming personality, warm spirit, wonderful sense of humor and beautiful smile" was the reason he was cast in the role.

She adds, "He is a talented and charismatic actor, and I am excited that he will bring Christopher's character to life."

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