The story of Amy Winehouse has been told before, from 2015’s Oscar-winning documentary Amy to 2021’s Marina Parker-directed Reclaiming Amy, which featured her friends and family reflecting on the British singer’s too-short life and career. But now for the first time, a Hollywood biopic about the beloved artist—who died at age 27 from alcohol poisoning—is heading to big screens.
The biopic, Back to Black, will be helmed by BAFTA-nominated Sam Taylor-Johnson, best known for 50 Shades of Gray and Nowhere Boy, about the childhood of John Lennon. (Taylor-Johnson was also a close friend of Winehouse’s). The script was penned by Matt Greenhalgh, who in addition to Nowhere Boy also wrote Control, which follows Joy Division’s Ian Curtis.
Taylor-Johnson says she is “fully aware of the responsibility” of telling Winehouse’s “beautifully unique and tragic story,” promising to “create a movie that we will all love and cherish forever. Just like we do Amy.”
A logline reads: “Back to Black is a never-before-seen glimpse into Amy Winehouse’s early rise to fame and the release of her groundbreaking studio album, Back to Black. Told from Amy’s perspective, the film is an unapologetic look at the woman behind the phenomenon and the relationship that inspired one of the most legendary albums of all time.”
Read on for everything to know about the biopic:
Who is in the Back to Black cast?
Marisa Abela, known for playing privileged by troubled Yasmin Kara-Hanani on HBO’s Industry, was chosen for the coveted lead role in July after a highly competitive search. The 26-year-old has singing experience that will be crucial to the film, and also, like Winehouse is of Jewish heritage, a fact that was reportedly important to casting.
On January 13, an official first look at Abela in character was released, and donning Winehouse’s signature beehive, cat-eye eyeliner, tattoos and beauty mark she cut an uncanny resemblance to the singer. When candid photos leaked from set a few days later, however, the internet was divided on whether Abela looked like Winehouse, and if a biopic should’ve been made at all.
On January 19, Deadline reported that three more actors had joined the cast: Jack O’Connell, Lesley Manville, and Eddie Marsan. O’Connell, who recently starred in Netflix’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, will play Blake Fielder-Civil, Winehouse’s ex-husband, fellow addict and the love of her life. Many of her songs were inspired by their tumultuous relationship. Marsan will play Winehouse’s father, and Manville will portray her grandmother, Cynthia, whom Winehouse was especially close to and whose death in 2006 is thought to have precipitated the singer’s descent into addiction.
Is there a trailer for Back to Black?
The first trailer for the film was released January 11. “I don’t write music to be famous,” Abela as Winehouse says in the clip, as the title track plays. “I write songs because I don’t what I’d do if I didn’t.”
The rest of the trailer shows footage of Winehouse performing, meeting her husband, getting a tattoo, and at home in Camden with her beloved grandmother, who helps her achieve her signature beehive hairdo. This is before the perils of fame, like being hounded by the paparazzi, begin to take hold. Watch below:
A second, longer trailer was released February 2, and delves deeper into the tumultuous love affair between Amy and her husband. It shows the pair meeting in a bar one night, and how their relationship began to fracture as she became increasingly more famous, with Back to Black jumping to the top of the charts. At one point in the film, Amy says that she wasn’t put on Earth just to be a singer, but that she wants to settle down and be a wife and mother. Watch below:
Are Amy Winehouse’s friends and family involved?
Back to Black has the full support of Winehouse’s Estate. 2015’s Amy, which won an Oscar for its depiction of the Grammy-winning singer’s decline into addiction and eventual death in 2011, was infamously derided by Winehouse’s father for its depiction of him. According to studios, Back to Black will “focus on Amy’s extraordinary genius, creativity and honesty that infused everything she did. A journey that took her from the craziness and color of ’90s Camden High Street to global adoration—and back again, Back to Black crashes through the looking glass of celebrity to watch this journey from behind the mirror, to see what Amy saw, to feel what she felt.”
“My connection to Amy began when I left college and was hanging out in the creatively diverse London borough of Camden,” Taylor-Johnson said in a statement. “I got a job at the legendary Koko Club, and I can still breathe every market stall, vintage shop and street… A few years later Amy wrote her searingly honest songs whilst living in Camden. Like with me, it became part of her DNA. I first saw her perform at a talent show at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in Soho and it was immediately obvious she wasn’t just ’talent’… she was genius. As a filmmaker you can’t really ask for more. I feel excited and humbled to have this opportunity to realize Amy’s beautifully unique and tragic story to cinema accompanied by the most important part of her legacy – her music. I am fully aware of the responsibility, with my writing collaborator—Matt Greenhalgh—I will create a movie that we will all love and cherish forever. Just like we do Amy.”
When will Back to Black be released?
Back to Black will hit US theaters on May 10, 2024.
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