"Nina" will start production in Los Angeles on Oct. 16. Mary J. Blige had been slated to portray Simone, but she moved on because of funding issues. The film was written by Cynthia Mort, who remains attached to direct.
Bing: Hear Nina Simone's music
Saldana has appeared in "Star Trek" and "Avatar," and she recently finished filming "Out of the Furnace" with Christian Bale and Casey Affleck. She's joined in "Nina" by David Oyelowo ("The Last King of Scotland," "The Help"), who will play Simone's manager, Clifton Henderson.
Born in 1933, Simone began singing in church as a young girl, teaching herself to play piano and organ by age 7. In 1959, she scored her only charting pop single, a version of George Gershwin's "I Loves You Porgy," from "Porgy and Bess." she remained active in music and the Civil Rights movement during the '60s, though tax issues forced her to move out of the United States the following decade. Simone died in France in 2003.