EXCLUSIVE: Deadline has learned that Lee Daniels is set to go into production next month in Montreal on The United States vs. Billie Holiday, a project he will direct and produce about the legendary jazz singer.
The pic follows Holiday (played by multi Grammy and NAACP nominee singer-songwriter Andra Day) during her career as she is targeted by the Federal Department of Narcotics with an undercover sting operation led by black Federal Agent Jimmy Fletcher, with whom she had a tumultuous affair. The pic will intimately examine Holiday’s struggles with addiction, fame and heartbreaking love.
Joining Day are Bird Box and Moonlight actor Trevante Rhodes, Mudbound and Tron actor Garrett Hedlund, and Russian Doll and Orange Is the New Black actress Natasha Lyonne and Dolemite Is My Name actress Da’Vine Joy Randolph.
“It is an extraordinary responsibility to tell the story of the iconic Billie Holiday. Her story is very personal to me and I hope to do justice when bringing to light this profound and complicated soul — a great artist and an unsung civil rights warrior,” said Daniels.
Suzan-Lori Parks wrote the script. Parks was the first African-American woman to receive a Pulitzer Prize for her play Topdog/Underdog and later went on to script Native Son this year.
The United States Vs. Billie Holiday is inspired by the 2015 New York Time’s Bestseller Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs written by Johann Hari, a non-fiction examination of the history and impact of drug criminalization, otherwise known as “The War on ”
The film is being produced by New Slate Ventures, Lee Daniels Entertainment, Roth Kirschenbaum Films with Jordan Fudge, Daniels, Pamela Oas Williams and Tucker Tooley. Executive Producers include Hilary Shor, George Parra, Mark Bomback and Dennis Stratton. BAFTA nominated composer Christopher Gunning (La Vie en Rose) will come out of retirement to pen the original score, while Grammy Nominated Salaam Remi (Amy Winehouse) is on board as Executive Music.
Daniels is a two-time Oscar nominee in the Best Director and Best Picture category for Precious. He was also the first African American to receive a Director’s Guild of America Nomination for Best Director for Precious. His 2013 feature The Butler grossed over $176M worldwide. Daniels is the co-creator of the Fox series Empire and Star.
New Slate Ventures is a creative and financing production entity run by Jordan Fudge. The company currently has projects in production and development, including Kevin Willmott’s The 24th and Radha Blank’s The 40-Year-Old Version.