UPDATED: I’ve learned that A24 will team on the Ronnie Spector film with New Regency. The two partnered previously on the Robert Eggers-directed The Lighthouse, and they are part of the Malcolm & Marie film.
EXCLUSIVE: A24 is putting together a film package that will have Emmy-winning Euphoria star Zendaya attached to play singer Ronnie Spector in a film about her life. Deals have just closed for Spector’s life rights and for Be My Baby, the memoir she wrote with Vince Waldron. I’m hearing that early conversations are happening with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury to write the script.
The film will be produced by Marc Platt, Adam Siegel, Mark Itkin, Tom Shelly and Zendaya. Jonathan Greenfield and Spector will be the exec producers.
Much the way that Aretha Franklin personally endorsed Jennifer Hudson to play her in the upcoming MGM biopic Respect, Spector chose Zendaya as the actress she wished to portray her in her early years. The singer grew up in Spanish Harlem and started girl group the Ronettes with her older sister Estelle Bennett and their cousin Nedra Talley. They were signed by famously volatile record producer Phil Spector to his Philles Records label and there they had their 1963 breakthrough hit “Be My Baby.” She married Spector and, as she writes in the book, it was clear she had made a big mistake when she woke up one morning to the sound of bars being installed on the windows of their mansion. She smartly fought for the rights to her music in the subsequent divorce and eventually was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She had a second wind when she reprised her most famous hit in singing a duet with Eddie Money on “Take Me Home Tonight” in 1986.
It looked like the movie would take root at Fox last year, but the sale of that studio to Disney stopped its momentum. A24 is a good fit, as it produces Euphoria for HBO. Zendaya just became the youngest actress to win Lead Actress in a Drama Series — she is 24 — and the second Black woman to win that category after Viola Davis in 2015. She is about as hot a young actress as you’ll find. To go with her work in Spider-Man: Homecoming and its sequels, she co-stars in the upcoming Denis Villenueve-directed Dune, and also Malcolm & Marie. On that one, she asked Euphoria EP Sam Levinson to write a movie that could be shot during the pandemic. They got Tenet’s John David Washington to co-star, and the resulting small-budget black-and-white film created a heated auction at the Toronto Film Festival Market before Netflix bought it for $30 million.
The life rights and book deals were made together by Ronnie’s manager Jon Greenfield and Hotchkiss Daily & Associates. Zendaya is repped by CAA, Monster Talent Management and her lawyers at Skrzyniarz & Mallean.