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Ziggy Marley, pictured at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Toronto on Feb. 8, is a producer on 'Bob Marley: One Love', a biographical musical drama film based on the life of his father.DUANE COLE/The Globe and Mail

Sitting two feet away from Ziggy Marley, one notices things. Like the gold lion ring he wears. His father, Bob, famously wore something similar. “This?” he says, when asked about the jewellery. “Ain’t nothing special about it.”

The youthful 55-year-old reggae star has his father’s face, in the cheekbone department particularly. Perhaps he should have been cast as the lead in Bob Marley: One Love, the new biopic that opened in theatres Wednesday. “Maybe in the sequel, man,” he says with a laugh.

Asked about the film, the Grammy winner turns serious: “This movie is not about Bob’s life. It’s about who Bob is.”

That’s when one notices that he talks in the present tense about a man who died in 1981.

“I’ve been here before and will come again,” Bob Marley once said. Fact is, he never left. His message of peace, unity and chill vibes – “let’s get together and feel all right” – is anthemic in some circles. His brand is strong across demographics, with T-shirts, turntables, soap and cannabis among the products affiliated with the Marley estate. Jamaica’s favourite son is one of the world’s highest-earning dead celebrities.

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Ziggy Marley became involved with the biopic as one of the four main producers for One Love.DUANE COLE/The Globe and Mail

Yet when he died of cancer at age 36, the reggae superstar left behind no last will and testament. Litigation over his estate was complex and lengthy. Bob Marley’s money was up for grabs, and so was his story. Although there are a number of documentaries on the musician, 2012′s Marley, by Kevin Macdonald, was the first to be sanctioned by the family. Now comes the first authorized biopic, 43 years after the man’s death.

What took so long?

“I was too immature before,” says Ziggy Marley, one of the film’s producers, speaking to The Globe and Mail at a downtown Toronto hotel shortly before an advance screening of the film last week. “Now I’m at the stage in my life, and in my relationship with my father, that I could be part of this film in a productive way.”

Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green and filmed on location in Jamaica and London, One Love stars Kingsley Ben-Adir as Bob Marley. Although the film touches on the Get Up, Stand Up singer’s whole life (often using flashbacks), it centres on the years 1976 to 1978. Focus points include the assassination attempt on his life, the making of his greatest album, Exodus, and the triumphant One Love Peace Concert in Kingston.

“It’s the most important time period,” his son says. “It is when Bob came to realize his purpose, that his life was not for him.”

In the film, Rita Marley (Bob’s wife, played by Lashana Lynch) tells her husband that he is not only a messenger of Rastafarian beliefs and values but that he is the message itself. He came to believe that his life was no longer important to him in the physical sense, that it was just a body, and that his spirit was all that mattered.

When he was alive, Marley shrouded his own story in myth and mysticism. In death, his legend has been curated by his family. With Ziggy onboard as one of the four main One Love producers, and Rita and daughter Cedella Marley consulting as well, the caretaking continues.

“We’re making a movie about Bob Marley, and who knows Bob Marley better than his family?” Green said in a separate interview. “That’s just the reality.”

Green has been through this before. He directed the 2021 biopic King Richard, which starred Will Smith as Richard Williams, the domineering father and coach of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams. The sisters were executive producers on the film, but they let another sibling represent them on set.

For One Love, having the family and others who knew Marley on hand came in handy. During the filming of a scene that had Bob Marley walking up a flight of stairs, Ziggy noticed a mistake: Where actor Ben-Adir took the steps one at a time, in real life the singer took them two at a time. The scene was reshot. In another scene, Ben-Adir was filmed sitting in the back of a limousine. Cut! Turns out the superstar’s habit was to sit in the front seat.

“I think those character details make the film richer,” Green said. “They’re important.”

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Kingsley Ben-Adir, who portrays Bob Marley in the film, talks to director Reinaldo Marcus Green.Chiabella James/Handout

The film, no surprise, paints a favourable picture of the musician. His infidelity is covered discreetly – a woman in the background as he speaks long distance with his wife. Later, when Rita Marley slaps him, he does not hit back. And yet there are stories of Bob Marley being violent with women.

“I made the film based on the information I had available to me,” Green said. “Of course, the family is protective, as they should be.”

As for how far that protection should extend, Ziggy Marley says he has nothing to hide: “There are no secrets in Bob’s life. He had flaws. And while he wasn’t perfect, his purpose was.”

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