Bob Marley: One Love
A still from Bob Marley: One Love

Reinaldo Marcus Green is no stranger to doing stories about real people. While still in the editing bay of his Oscar-nominated film King Richard, which starred Will Smith as the father of Venus and Serena Williams, he received the script for Bob Marley: One Love. He couldn’t believe there’d never been a biopic of the reggae icon, who, with his death at only 36, became a spiritual icon as well. 

He knew he couldn’t do it without Marley’s music, and the support of his family. But fortunately he had it: The film’s producers include his widow, Rita Marley, his son, Ziggy, and his daughter, Cedella.

Reinaldo Marcus Green on Making Bob Marley: One Love

“If I was going to go to the theater, I wanted to hear Bob’s voice. Once I knew I had the music and support of the family, it was a matter of going on the path to finding our Bob Marley,” Green tells MovieMaker

He also wanted to dispel the baffling notion that Marley’s music and legacy are all about laying back and taking it easy.

“His work ethic was critical,” Green says. “I think when you see Bob in interviews he seems calm, kind of relaxed and chill but I think he was everything but calm. I think he was a man on a mission. He was a man relentlessly working. They say he didn’t sleep. He just rested his eyes. I thought that was an attribute to show.”

He also found a common touchpoint in Marcus Garvey, the Jamaican leader who rejected British colonial rule of the island.

“Bob was also a revolutionary. He studied Marcus Garvey. I was named Reinaldo Marcus Green after Marcus Garvey. He was all about the liberation of Black people. He was all about fighting for your rights and bringing people together. Bob as a revolutionary is an important trait.”

Marley’s spiritualism was essential as well: Bob Marley, played by Kingsley Ben-Adir, and Rita Marley, played by Lashana Lynch, shared beliefs in Rastafarianism, and it was a foundation of their musical alliance. The symbol of the conquering lion, representing Ethiopian Emperor Hailie Selassie I, was always present in the background of their concerts. Dreadlocks represent the lion’s mane, Marley’s flowed halo-like as he performed.

Bob Marley: One Love
A still from Bob Marley: One Love

“Bob was spiritual. He was guided by Jah and his faith in Rastafarianism. He was guided by the Bible. He read it religiously. Scripture is what’s in his music. He was a man of deep faith. He was a deep practitioner of Rastafarian beliefs. Everything he put into his body was on purpose. There were no accidents. Bob woke up at 5 a.m. and trained like a football player. He had a deep belief in God and that’s an important attribute.”

Reinaldo also has a stringent work ethic. After working on Wall Street for about five years, then in insurance, he was motivated by his older brother, director Rashaad Ernesto Green, to get into film. He started out as what he calls a “glorified P.A.,” then got into New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts graduate film program, where he discovered his love of writing and directing. 

His powerful short films jettisoned him into the 2017 Sundance Lab, where he met his cinematographer, Richard Elswit, and editor Pamela Martin. The lab proved vibrant and life-changing: “It’s a scary place because you’re very vulnerable, but it was also like the safest place I’d ever been. It solidified my belief in myself that I was on the right track.” 

Reinaldo and his family liked to watch true-crime movies and television shows like Columbo when he was growing up. His father was an attorney, and Reinaldo was a history major in college — the commitment to the truth helped inspire his documentary-like approach. 

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He notes that the film employed over 4,000 Jamaicans, and that at least 95% of the cast of Bob Marley: One Love are Jamaican. The accents are thick. It’s a challenge at times  to understand the rich patois, but viewers will feel like they’re on the bustling streets of Trenchtown, overhearing conversations. 

Reinaldo wanted Kingsley to be “folded into a situation that was real,” so he surrounded him with real musicians. 

“It felt like the whole country stood up to help us make this movie,” Green says. “It was quite special in that way.”

Bob Marley: One Love
A still from Bob Marley: One Love

On the first day of filming, Ziggy Marley had everyone stand in a prayer circle. 

“It was a really special moment because it was kicking off what we knew to be a spiritual film with a prayer. It felt like channeling Bob,” says Green. “It felt like we had Bob on set guiding us. Everyone was grateful to be there, all the work that had gone into getting us there, and all the work that we had ahead. I’m always grateful for day one.”

How does one approach a biopic about a larger-than-life figure like Bob Marley? There are more than 500 books about him. And everyone Green met had different stories. 

“For me, it was about culling through and finding the common denominators,” he says.

He knew he didn’t want to do a “cradle to grave story,” so he focused on 1976 to 1978, a fertile period in Bob’s life. 

“There was an assassination attempt in Jamaica, Exodus was created, arguably one of the greatest albums of the 20th Century, and then Bob’s return to Jamaica. It felt like there was inherent structure there.” 

Robert Nesta Marley was born on February 6, 1945 in Nine Mile, Jamaica. His father was a white plantation owner who never acknowledged him, and Bob grew up in poverty. However, his mother, Cedella Marley-Booker, made sure that he and his brother Anthony were surrounded by love. He rose from humble beginnings to reggae king. 

What can today’s youth take away from Marley’s story? “I feel like this film is a vessel to continue Bob’s legacy,” says Green. “It can be an inspiration to kids like Bob. Bob Marley is your favorite musician’s favorite musician… but he’s also a man. A real life superhero without the cape. 

“I hope that kid in the favela of Rio is like, ‘I can too!’ or that kid in the South Bronx growing up without a parent is like, ‘I can do it!’ It gives us all hope that anything is possible.” 

Bob Marley: One Love arrives in theaters on Valentine’s Day, February 14, from Paramount Pictures.

Main Image: A still from Bob Marley: One Love