EXCLUSIVE: Studiocanal’s coveted Amy Winehouse Back to black seems to have found a home as sources tell Deadline that Focus Features and Monumental Pictures are teaming up with Studiocanal on the new biopic about the Grammy-winning singer who died tragically in 2011. Industry Breakout Marisa Abela is set to star as Winehouse, with Sam Taylor-Johnson on board to direct.
Focus will distribute the picture in the United States, with Universal Pictures International handling international distribution excluding the UK, France, Germany, Australia/New Zealand, Benelux, Scandinavia and Poland which will be managed by Studiocanal. Filming is set to begin Monday in London.
Deadline was first to report that Studiocanal and Taylor-Johnson were moving forward with the film over the summer, and Winehouse’s role quickly became one of the most coveted roles. While a number of actresses have met, sources say Abela’s first audition blew executives and Taylor-Johnson and put her in the driver’s seat to land the role. Once Abela signed, the package did the rounds, with Focus moving aggressively toward land distribution rights.
See the first look at Abela as Winehouse below.
Following Winehouse’s death, Hollywood has since attempted to tell her story with various projects in development, including one from Lotus Entertainment with Noomi Rapace attached to star. In the end, none advanced. While a feature film has yet to be produced, the 2015 documentary A24 Amy was a huge hit and won the Oscar. With Focus now on board, all signs point to this being the first photo likely to make its way to public view with the full support of the Winehouse estate.
“My connection to Amy started when I left college and was hanging out in London’s diverse creative neighborhood of Camden,” Taylor-Johnson said. “I got a job at the legendary Koko Club, and I can still breathe every market stall, every vintage shop, and every street… A few years later, Amy wrote her songs with searing honesty while living in Camden. Like with me, it became part of her DNA. I saw her for the first time at a talent show at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in Soho and immediately understood that she was not just “talented”…she was awesome. As a filmmaker, you can’t really ask for more. I feel excited and humbled to have this opportunity to direct Amy’s beautifully unique and tragic story at the cinema accompanied by the most important part of his legacy – his music. I am fully aware of the responsibility, together with my writing collaborator – Matt Greenhalgh – I will create a film that we will all love and cherish forever. Just as we let’s do it with Amy.
The photo was written by Greenhalgh, gather the scribe with Taylor Johnson following their collaboration on Nowhere Boy in 2009. Featuring many of Winehouse’s hit songs, Back to black has the full support of Universal Music Group, Sony Music Publishing and Amy Winehouse Estate.
“We are thrilled that Studiocanal, Focus Features and Monumental are making this film celebrating the extraordinary musical legacy of our daughter Amy and showcasing her talent as it deserves,” the estate added.
Alison Owen and Debra Hayward of Monumental produce with Nicky Kentish-Barnes executive production. Nina Gold directs the cast. Executive Vice President of Global Production Ron Halpern and SVP Global Production Joe Naftalin executive producers and supervisors for Studiocanal.
“It is our immense pleasure and privilege to produce and bring this film to the public,” said Halpern. and Naftalin said. “We are extremely grateful to our partners at The Amy Winehouse Estate, Universal Music Group and Sony Music Publishing for having the opportunity to tell the story of Amy Winehouse with the use of her extraordinary music – to our partners at Focus Features – and to our incredible director, Sam Taylor-Johnson and star Marisa Abela, who we are thrilled to work with Amy Winehouse was a once-in-a-generation talent – and together with our producing partners at Monumental Pictures, we will strive to to make her proud with this film – and to create a music-driven event image for audiences new and old, that will make us all laugh, cry – and truly celebrate Amy and her genius.
Winehouse is considered one of the biggest artists in recent history, selling over 30 million records worldwide and now generating over 80 million streams per month. His 2006 album Back to black rocketed her to superstardom, earning her a record five (then) Grammys, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year for the single “Rehab.” The film will focus on Amy’s genius, creativity and honesty that permeated everything she did. A journey that took her from the madness and color of 1990s Camden High Street to worldwide adoration and back again, the photo crashes through the mirror of fame to watch this journey behind the mirror , to see what Amy saw, to feel what she felt.
“Amy Winehouse is the greatest musical talent of the 21st century so far,” Owen said. “But like so many female icons, the tragedy of her death seemed to cloud the triumph of her talent… the fun of the 2000s, the madness of Camden, her youth and her genius – we want to reclaim it for her, with this film .”
“In Sam Taylor-Johnson’s delightfully moving portrait of an artist, the genius, heart, energy and woman behind the icon we all know as Amy Winehouse promise to shine as she deserves. said Kiska Higgs, president of Production & Acquisitions at Focus. “We can’t wait to travel Amy’s world and hear her voice through the wonderful Marisa Abela, and we can’t wait to reunite with Sam and our friends at Monumental and Studiocanal.”
Taylor-Johnson directed the 2015 blockbuster Fifty shades of Grey with Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan. His additional credits include the John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy and A million little pieces, both with Aaron Taylor-Johnson. She is represented by CAA, Brillstein Entertainment Partners and Sloane, Offer, Weber, Dern.
Greenhalgh is an award-winning screenwriter best known for Control about Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis and Nowhere Boy on Lennon’s early years. He was nominated for the BAFTAs in 2018 for Movie stars don’t die in Liverpool.
Abela burst onto the scene in the first season of the hit HBO-BBC banking drama Two Industry, with the second season just completed; the series was renewed for a third season. She also completed production on Barbie, Warner Bros. live-action film adaptation from director Greta Gerwig. She also has the IFC Films and AMC+ spy thriller. Rogue Agent, alongside James Norton and Gemma Arterton. Abela previously starred in writer and director Jamie Adams’ improv romance She Is Love, opposite Haley Bennett and Sam Riley. She is represented by WME and The Artists Partnership.
The deal was closed by Anne Cherel, Aska Yamaguchi and Sophie Leuthreau for Studiocanal and Howard Meyers and Marin Babb for Focus Features.