With his hip hop drama “Empire” already renewed for a fifth season, Lee Daniels is setting his sights on a real-world musical icon for his next feature film.
Sources tell Variety that Daniels is in talks to direct the Billie Holiday biopic “Billie.” Sources also add that R&B singer Andra Day is the top choice for the title role and Lakeith Stanfield for the male role, though nothing is yet finalized for either thesp.
Joe Roth and Jeff Kirschenbaum are producing, with Pulitzer-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks penning the script which is using “Chasing the Scream: The First & Last Days of the War on Drugs” by Johann Hari as the source material. Mark Bomback had been developing this project with Roth and Kirschenbaum since its inception and is an executive producer on it. He had helped guide the development process with Daniels and Parks.
Holiday, also known as “Lady Day,” was a legendary jazz singer whose career spanned three decades before her passing in 1959. Her iconic performing style has influenced and inspired artists and jazz musicians for years to come.
Hollywood has already shown its appreciation for Holiday with a 1972 biopic starring Diana Ross, followed by a 1986 Broadway play, “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill.”
With “Empire” on hiatus, Daniels had been looking for a next feature gig for some time, and it was his admiration for the legendary singer that originally drew him to the project.
The film is still looking for a studio and it is unknown when production would get under way, but with deals firming, the hope is for shooting to start before the end of the year.
Daniels hasn’t directed a film since the box office hit “The Butler,” instead putting most of his focus on his hit TV shows “Empire” and “Star.” He is repped by CAA and Untitled Entertainment.