Get in tune with these 18 upcoming music biopics
The rock stars heading to the big screen
Will these music biopics hit the right note or turn out tone deaf? See 18 upcoming movies that will chronicle the iconic lives of famous musicians and who's set to star, ahead.
Say hello to your new Elvis — Austin Butler will play the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll in the upcoming biopic directed by Baz Luhrmann. Covering Elvis Presley’s rise to fame from broke, aspiring singer to worldwide superstar, the story will be told through the lens of his complicated relationship with his manager for more than 20 years, Colonel Tom Parker (played by Tom Hanks in the upcoming flick). The film is currently in production in Queensland, Australia, and will premiere June 3, 2022.
From A Star Is Born to Leonard Bernstein, Bradley Cooper is staying in the music genre for his next big movie project. He will direct and star in a Leonard Bernstein biopic Maestro about the conductor and composer behind the music of The West Side Story, Peter Pan, and more. Cooper will also co-write the Netflix film with Josh Singer (Spotlight), and Carey Mulligan will appear as Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein, wife of the iconic composer. Cooper, Steven Spielberg, and Martin Scorsese are among the producers. And another Bernstein biopic is also in the works: The American starring Jake Gyllenhaal from True Detective director Cary Fukunaga.
Timothée Chalamet is going to play Bob Dylan in an as-yet-untitled film from Fox Searchlight. Directed by James Mangold, the film takes place in 1965, when the folk legend made a controversial shift to rock and roll and the electric guitar. However, in an interview with Collider, cinematographer Phedon Papamichael revealed production is on hold due to COVID-19.
Put some R-E-S-P-E-C-T on her name, because Aretha Franklin is getting not one but two biopics. The first is the film Respect starring Jennifer Hudson (in theaters Aug. 13, 2021) as the iconic singer. Directed by Liesl Tommy, the biopic follows Franklin's life from a child singing in her father's church choir to achieving international superstardom. And before her death in August 2018, Franklin had hand-picked Hudson to portray her onscreen. Franklin will also be portrayed by Cynthia Erivo in Nat Geo’s upcoming Genius: Aretha series.
Boy George is yet another musical icon to get the Hollywood treatment, with MGM producing the biopic and Anvil: The Story of Anvil director Sacha Gervasi writing and directing. The as-yet-untitled project will follow the singer (born George Alan O'Dowd) from his early years in England as part of a working class Irish family until his rise up the pop charts as part of the group Culture Club in the 1980s. Even Sophie Turner has said she'd like the part.
Lucy Boynton is trading one music biopic for another. After costarring in Bohemian Rhapsody, the British actor is set to play singer Marianne Faithfull in (and executive produce) Faithfull, directed by Ian Bonhôte. Set in mid-1960s London, the movie will chronicle the highs and lows of Faithfull’s career after being discovered as a convent schoolgirl at 17, becoming a pop idol, her tumultuous romance with Mick Jagger that inspired some of their greatest songs, and being a homeless drug addict in Soho. "I am delighted that my story is finally being made with my dream team of Lucy, Julia and Ian," Faithfull said.
It should come as no surprise that Michael Jackson is finally getting the biopic treatment. Graham King, who produced the Oscar-winning Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, has acquired the rights to make a film based on the life of Jackson and he has also acquired access to use all of Jackson’s music. No studio is involved yet, but King has brought on screenwriter John Logan (the two previously collaborated on Martin Scorsese's Howard Hughes biopic, The Aviator). No more information has been revealed at this time.
Six-time Grammy nominee Tyrese Gibson is taking on the life of R&B icon Teddy Pendergrass in a biopic written by Little Marvin with Donald De Line (Ready Player One), Lee Daniels (The Butler, TV’s Empire), and Gibson producing. Pendergrass’ widow, Joan Pendergrass, is on board as an executive producer. "I am honored to take this journey... This is the role that I feel I was born to play,” Gibson said. “Teddy Pendergrass embraced me and before he passed, put the responsibility on my shoulders to tell his story. Being here in this time and in this space and moment with Lee Daniels, Donald De Line, Little Marvin, and Warner Bros. is an answered prayer. Teddy, I just hope we make you, your wife and family proud... Here we go!” A release date has yet to be announced.
King is a busy man — he's also developing a biopic about the Bee Gees along with Steven Spielberg. The currently-untitled film about the legendary pop group doesn't have a script yet but will likely follow the English-Australian group's rise to fame after their humble beginnings in 1958, with the trio of brothers Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb going on to garner global fame after working on the soundtrack for the 1977 film Saturday Night Fever, penning iconic tunes like "Stayin' Alive," "Night Fever," and "More Than a Woman." Paramount and King purchased the life rights to the Gibb family estate, and thus will be able to use the group’s biggest hits in the movie. Barry is the sole surviving member of the group, as Maurice and Robin died in 2003 and 2012.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Back in 2018, it was reported that the rights to an untitled drama about John Lennon and Yoko Ono's epic love story was in negotiations with Universal Pictures. Jean-Marc Vallée was attached to direct and edit. The script was written by Bohemian Rhapsody scribe Anthony McCarten and Ono herself was attached to produce. But since then there has been no other news about the biopic.
Amy Winehouse's family announced back in 2018 that the iconic singer was getting a big screen biopic, with proceeds from the film reportedly benefitting the Amy Winehouse Foundation. The Winehouse family will serve as executive producers on the film that is currently in the script stage. "We now feel able to celebrate Amy's extraordinary life and talent," the singer’s father Mitch Winehouse said. "And we know through the Amy Winehouse Foundation that the true story of her illness can help so many others who might be experiencing similar issues."
Based on his The Autobiography of Gucci Mane, Gucci Mane (real name: Radric Delantic Davis) is getting a biopic from Paramount Players and Imagine Entertainment. Imagine's Brian Grazer and Erica Huggins will produce with Mane and Todd Moskowitz executive producing the film about the trap house trailblazer who started his career by releasing mixtapes while in prison.
Not technically a biopic, French film Aline is labeled as an homage to the life of Canadian singer Celine Dion. The movie is based on details of Dion's life and uses many of her songs. Slated for a March 2021 release, the movie is directed by and starring Valerie Lemercier. She's playing Aline, a character inspired by Dion who grows up in a large Canadian family, is discovered as a major talent in her teens, becomes a global sensation and experiences the tragedy of losing her husband.
Who better to make a movie about Madonna’s life than Madonna herself? The iconic singer is set to direct a biopic about her life, which she’s co-writing with Oscar-winning Juno scribe Diablo Cody. The still-untitled Universal film will also be produced by Madonna and three-time Academy Award-nominee Amy Pascal (Little Women, The Post), and will follow the entertainer's rise to prominence as the culture-shaping musician, actress, director, author, and entrepreneur she is today. Sara Zambreno and Madonna's longtime manager, Guy Oseary, are on board as executive producers as well.
Lemmy a.k.a. Ian Fraser Kilmister, the late lead singer of Motörhead who passed away in 2015, is getting a biopic from someone who knew him well. Lemmy will be directed by Greg Olliver, who actually spent several years with the band for the 2010 documentary about the band. The movie will follow Kilmister's early life in England, his time as a roadie for Jimi Hendrix, and the five years he spent with rock band Hawkwind before he went on to create Motörhead, forever changing the future of rock music. Motörhead’s manager Todd Singerman and Steffan Chirazi will serve as executive producers for a screenplay written by Medeni Griffiths along with Olliver, with production aiming to begin in early 2021.
What’s better than a biopic about an iconic female rock band? A biopic about an iconic female rock band written and directed by another iconic female rock star. Heart guitarist Ann Wilson revealed on SiriusXM’s Volume West that "there's [a film] in the works" about her band best known for late ‘70s and early ‘80s hits like "Crazy on You" and "Barracuda.” Plus, she also dropped the news that Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein is set to write and direct the Amazon Studios film that will be produced by Lynda Obst (Sleepless in Seattle, Interstellar). While the script is still in development, Wilson added that she "saw the first draft of the script, it's really cool… The script started in childhood and ended up in the '90s." Casting is currently underway for the roles of Wilson and her sister Nancy Wilson.
Peggy Lee is getting her own biopic with a lot of award-winning and nominated people behind it. Oscar-nominated Michelle Williams is set to portray the iconic singer in Carol filmmaker Todd Haynes' upcoming biopic Fever, with Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon as a producer and Grammy-winning singer Billie Eilish — who has long touted Lee as one of her inspirations — in talks to join as a producer as well. More details including a release date have yet to be announced.