In the latest ripple caused by Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl exposure, the singer has abruptly withdrawn from an ABC biopic about Lena Horne — putting the project in limbo.
Storyline Entertainment partners Craig Zadan and Neil Meron have ankled as exec producers in solidarity with Jackson, who was due to play Horne.
A spokeswoman for Jackson said she was effectively dis-invited from the movie by Horne and her daughter Gail Lumet Buckley, who were incensed when Jackson flashed during the halftime show. Horne refused to return her contract for the pic until ABC guaranteed that Jackson was off the project, which is being produced by Storyline and Sony Pictures Television. ABC execs refused Horne’s demand, but the issue has become moot with the reaction of Jackson, Zadan and Meron.
Alphabet insiders said the project is now up in the air; barring another superstar casting, however, it’s unlikely to move forward.
“It’s sad this had to happen. It was a perfect match,” one ABC insider said.
The Super Bowl stunt has had far reaching implications. The FCC is investigating, and broadcasters have in turn tightened the screws to eliminate the chance of another unscripted surprise that could shock and offend mass audiences.
Stormy weather was rumored to be brewing over the ABC biopic early last week, as word surfaced that Horne’s displeasure hadn’t abated. At the time, it was hoped that the singers would meet and that the duet would end harmoniously. But Horne refused to meet with Jackson.
Jackson looked at the movie as a prestigious way to jumpstart her acting career, which has included roles in 1970s sitcom “Good Times” and John Singleton’s “Poetic Justice.” She was recently photographed as Horne in a glamorous Vanity Fair layout.
Zadan and Meron left the project right after Jackson, and a spokeswoman for the producers said they would concentrate on finding another project to do with the singer.
It’s not surprising they stuck by Jackson. While ABC already had optioned a Horne bio, it wasn’t until Jackson approached the producers that the project became a film on the fast track.
Jackson signed to play the elegant singer who broke racial barriers, and she also planned to re-record some of Horne’s classic songs.
“She is someone I’ve admired my whole life,” Jackson said of Horne when the project was greenlit last fall.
Roy Campanella Jr. was set to direct Shirley Pierce’s script based on “Lena,” the autobiography the singer wrote with Richard Schickel.