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2020: year of the musical biopic

By Marc Zisman |

A whole range of new films are already in the works dedicated to telling the stories of Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, David Bowie and more!

After the worldwide success and multiple award nominations of Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, biopics dedicated to Freddie Mercury and Elton John respectively, a wave of new features portraying the lives of various musicians, some of which are still alive, is about to hit both the big and the small screen.

On the living side, there is a lot of hype surrounding the new Bob Dylan biopic with French-American star of the moment Timothée Chalamet (last seen in hit films such as Call Me By Your Name, Beautiful Boy, Little Women and Lady Bird) in the main role. At the moment, the film is rumoured to be called Going Electric and directed by James Mangold, who already has the 2006 Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line starring Joaquin Phoenix under his belt.

Also very much alive: Celine Dion. The French actor-director-singer Valérie Lemercier is at the helm of The Power of Love (Famous), and set to star in it alongside Carole Weyers and Sylvain Marcel. The film will probably be more of an homage than a biopic, as Lemercier is something of a fan of the bilingual superstar.

Having sadly left us on January 10th 2016, David Bowie certainly led a life worthy of a biopic. Johnny Flynn (lead actor in the series Lovesick) will play the Thin White Duke in Gabriel Range’s Stardust, which will focus his first American tour in 1971. Jena Malone and Marc Maron will also join the cast of this independent feature film which will ironically not feature any of Bowie’s music. Duncan Jones, the son of the legendary musician, did indeed state that no agreement could be reached regarding the use of his father’s music in the film.

Another legend who recently left us in the summer of 2018, Aretha Franklin will be on all of our screens on the 9th of October this year. Before her passing, the Queen of Soul herself chose who she wanted to play her: Jennifer Hudson. The singer who also notably appeared in Dreamgirls will be joined by Forest Whitaker as Aretha’s father, Marlon Wayans as her husband Ted White and Marc Maron as the famous producer Jerry Wexler. Mary J. Blige will equally star as another great soul and jazz singer, Dinah Washington. Titled Respect, the film is directed by American-South African Liesl Tommy.

Another singer whose life was certainly eventful is Michael Jackson. Bohemian Rhapsody producer Graham King is working on a complete biopic, from the birth to the death via the legal troubles of the Thriller singer. King has already stated that the film will tackle all aspects of the King of Pop’s life. The Jackson family is, for now, playing along by allowing King access to Michael’s musical catalogue. Script-wise, there is talk that John Logan will join the project; the Hollywood giant has already penned Gladiator by Ridley Scott, Hugo and The Aviator by Martin Scorsese, Sweeney Todd by Tim Burton, Skyfall by Sam Mendes and the series Penny Dreadful which he created himself. Graham King is also rumoured to be working on a script for a Bee Gees biopic. Not much information has filtered through the grapevine on this other project even though Paramount have purchased the rights for the Gibb brothers’ music… Watch this space.

There is more certainty surrounding a film about Elvis Presley, with Baz Luhrmann directing (the director of Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby and Romeo + Juliet) and Austin Butler playing The King. Rumour has it that Colonel Parker, his draconian manager, will be played by Tom Hanks

The list of biopics coming out in 2020 goes on, with Teddy Pendergrass, Amy Winehouse, Boy George, Carole King, Bob Marley, Gucci Mane and Madonna all slated to have films about them coming out this year...

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