Daniels will direct and produce pic from a script written by Suzan-Lori Parks, who was the first Black American woman to receive a Pulitzer Prize for her play TOPDOG/UNDERDOG. She also penned the “Native Son” script in 2019.
“The United States vs. Billie Holliday” follows the iconic jazz musician and singer as “she’s being targeted by the Federal Department of Narcotics in an undercover sting operation led by federal agent Jimmy Fletcher, with whom she had a tumultuous affair, per Broadway World. The biopic will examine Holliday’s struggles with addiction, fame and heartbreak.
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“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,” Daniels said in a statement.
The film is inspired by the 2015 New York Times bestseller “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs.”
In an interview with Essence magazine, Day counted Holiday as one of her major musical influences.
“Nina Simone and Billie Holiday are pretty much the reasons I do what I do now,” the San Diego native said. “Nina Simone particularly because of her activism: She used her music as her platform. She was willing to speak up for the race issues that were going on at the time, even to the detriment of her own career.”
“The United States vs. Billie Holiday” will be the first project Lee Daniels has directed since 2013’s “The Butler,” which starred Forest Whitaker and grossed over $175 million at the worldwide box office.