Actress Michelle Williams has been on a roll over the past couple of weeks, having booked the lead in regular collaborator Kelly Reichardt’s new movie and now landed another major role with a filmmaker who’s taken a shine to her. Todd Haynes is gearing up for another feature, and he’s bumping Williams up from the supporting parts she played in I’m Not There and Wonderstruck to the headlining spot.
She’ll portray the singer Peggy Lee in Fever, an upcoming biopic chronicling an eventful life that allowed for stardom in the worlds of both music and cinema. Deadline had the exclusive that the long-in-development project has finally gotten a green light with a script from I Am My Own Wife playwright Doug Wright. (Reese Witherspoon and Nora Ephron were attached, once upon a time.)
Lee was a multi-hyphenate crooner/songwriter/composer in a career that spanned most of the twentieth century, taking her from the days of swing and big band into the early rumblings of rock ’n’ roll. Along the way, she found additional success in Hollywood, where she earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress off her fine performance as a booze-addled songbird in Pete Kelly’s Blues.
This project has gotten off the ground with the help of an unusual, unexpected executive producer: Grammy-festooned Gen Z wunderkind Billie Eilish. The Deadline item notes that Eilish, who claims Lee as a major inspiration on her own work, participated in a salute to the elder talent’s life and professional accomplishments last May, well-suiting her for her participation.
Haynes has shown a skill for avoiding the many pitfalls of the musician biopic form over the years, from the intimate self-mythologizing of Velvet Goldmine to the innovative prismatic structuring of I’m Not There. Though Haynes has pulled back from writing his own scripts as of late, he and Wright are sure to find some workaround that will distinguish their treatment of Lee’s timeless yet oft-told story from the many like it.
Published 5 Feb 2021
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