A Billie Holiday biopic about the life of the jazz icon will be shown by Paramount Pictures and released February 12, 2021.
Lee Daniels, who is the co-creator, producer and director of television shows Empire and Star, has been working on the film since 2018 and we will get to see it next year. According to The Hollywood Reporter, it will be released February 12 2021, with the title United States vs. Billie Holiday.
Eleanora Fagan, or Billie Holiday as she was known, had a music career spanning 26 years. She initially auditioned as a dancer but ended up becoming a singer at 16 years old, in a strange twist of fate.
Holiday was even an early reality star, before the format really took off. She appeared in The Comeback Story, a show broadcast from 1953 to 1954 about stars overcoming adversity to find success.
In film and popular culture, she is referenced by U2 in the second single of their Rattle and Hum album, titled ‘Angel of Harlem.’ Diana Ross previously portrayed her in the 1972 film, Lady Sings The Blues alongside Richard Pryor and Billy Dee Williams. Ross earned five Academy Award nominations for her performance as the jazz singer.
It’s Holiday’s 1939 song, ‘Strange Fruit’ that draws the most attention. Listed as TIME Magazine’s “Song of the Century” in 1999, it is a protest song about lynching, originally a poem by Abel Meeropol. The song is also part of The Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry and has been covered by artists including Herbie Hancock and Nina Simone.
Even Kanye West sampled Simone’s cover in his 2013 song ‘Blood on the Leaves.’ The impact of the song really can’t be understated.
The United States vs. Billie Holiday will focus on Holiday become targeted by federal agents who seek to stop her performing ‘Strange Fruit.’
“With the world’s eyes forced to look at the centuries-old oppression of Black people, I hope The United States Vs. Billie Holiday’ will add to this important conversation by shining a light on systemic racism and social injustice,” Daniels said about the film according to Variety.
“I also feel that in this time of great reckoning it is essential we celebrate the life and artistry of an unsung Civil Rights warrior, Billie Holiday. We are proud to partner with Sierra/Affinity to bring this story to the global stage.”
Susan Lori-Parks is writing the script, and she is Pulitzer Prize-winner for her 2001 drama Topdog/Underdog. Andra Day is reportedly playing Holiday according to W Magazine, and previously portrayed the jazz icon in the Lanie Robertson play Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill.
The biopic was inspired by a book by author Johann Hari titled, Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs.