Paul King has signed on to direct the Tom Holland-starring Fred Astaire biopic

At long last, the promise of the "Umbrella" lip-sync video shall be delivered upon.


Charles Bramesco


For years, audiences have been taunted with the unfulfilled promise of Tom Holland‘s potential as first suggested in his electrifying televised lip-sync rendition of Rihanna’s “Umbrella.” Through his straight-down-the-middle heroism in the Spider-Man franchise to his glowering in such serious fare as The Devil All the Time and Cherrk, he’s never fully followed through on the ebullient charisma he first cultivated as a star of the London stage.

It sounds like that will soon change, however, with his long-gestating Fred Astaire biopic finally getting its fleet feet off the ground in light of a new announcement today. The still-untitled film has landed an encouraging pick for director in Paul King, best known as the steward of the widely-beloved Paddington films. Test screenings of his upcoming Hot Willy Wonka movie with Timothée Chalamet — which has been rumored to contain some musical component — must be going well.

The precise logline for the Astaire project has yet to be specified, but the Hollywood Reporter piece breaking the news hints that the film will focus on Astaire’s complicated relationship with his sister Adele. Inseparable for decades, they clawed their way from a podunk Vaudeville act in the Midwest to the uppermost echelons of Broadway and the West End, only for their partnership to be torn asunder by her decision to get married and his onward-and-upward move into the Hollywood stardom that made him a legend.

Song-and-dance numbers will presumably be a significant part of Sony’s approach to the material, judging by Holland’s experience and King’s standout showing in directing the “Rain on the Roof” grand finale from Paddington 2. Not to mention that the script is currently being rewritten by Lee Hall, the scribe behind the dance drama Billy Elliot — which also happens to be the basis of the stage musical that first set Holland on the path to celebrity.

No one would deny that Holland has the technical chops to manage Astaire’s famously weightless dance moves, but the question remains as to whether he can conjure that ineffable magic the softshoe master exuded with every performance. If Tom Holland could just bust out the screen presence of a Fred Astaire on command, wouldn’t he have done so by now?

Published 13 Feb 2023

Tags: Fred Astaire Paul King Tom Holland

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