By Jack Barnes
Beginning production in early October in Montreal, Lee Daniels will direct and produce THE UNITED STATES VS. BILLY HOLIDAY, a new feature film about the legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday. In 2010, Daniels received an Academy Award nomination for Best Director and was the first African American to receive a Director’s Guild of America Nomination for Best Director for his critically acclaimed film PRECIOUS. Daniels also helmed the global box-office hit, THE BUTLER in 2013, grossing over $175M worldwide.
•Multiple Grammy and NAACP Image Award Nominee Andra Day (MARSHALL) will lead a diverse cast as the iconic Billie Holiday, alongside co-stars NAACP Image Award Nominee Trevante Rhodes (BIRD BOX and MOONLIGHT), SAG Award Nominee Garrett Hedlund (MUDBOUND and TRIPLE FRONTIER), and Emmy Award Nominee Natasha Lyonne (RUSSIAN DOLL and ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK).
•The script is written by Suzan-Lori Parks. Parks was the first African-American woman to receive a Pulitzer Prize for her play TOPDOG/UNDERDOG and later went on to script NATIVE SON in 2019.
•The film is inspired by the critically acclaimed and widely beloved 2015 New York Time’s Bestseller “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs” written by Johann Hari. “Chasing the Scream” is a non-fiction examination of the history and impact of drug criminalization, otherwise known as “The War on Drugs.”
•The film is being produced by New Slate Ventures, Lee Daniels Entertainment, Roth Kirschenbaum Films with Jordan Fudge, Lee Daniels, Pamela Oas Williams and Tucker Tooley. Executive Producers include Hilary Shor, George Parra, Mark Bomback and Dennis Stratton. BAFTA-nominated composer Christopher Gunning (LA VIE EN ROSE) will come out of retirement to design the original score, while Grammy Nominated Salaam Remi (Amy Winehouse) is on board as Executive Music Producer.
•Quote from LD: “It is an extraordinary responsibility to tell the story of the iconic Billie Holiday. Her story is very personal to me and I hope to do justice when bringing to light this profound and complicated soul — a great artist and an unsung civil rights warrior.”
•Logline: The legendary Billie Holiday, one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, spent much of her career being adored by fans across the globe, all while the Federal Department of Narcotics targeted her with an undercover sting operation led by black Federal Agent Jimmy Fletcher, with whom she had a tumultuous affair. Inspired by her life story, THE UNITED STATES VS. BILLIE HOLIDAY intimately examines her struggles with addiction, fame and heartbreaking love.
About New Slate Ventures
Supporting new and innovative voices, New Slate Ventures is a creative and financing production entity run by Jordan Fudge. The company currently has projects in production and development, including Kevin Willmott’s THE 24th and Radha Blank’s THE 40-YEAR-OLD VERSION
About Lee Daniels Entertainment
Lee Daniels Entertainment is a full-service production company founded in 2001 by Academy Award-Nominated Director, and Writer and Producer, Lee Daniels. Since its inception, LDE has been responsible for some of Hollywood’s most exhilarating film projects including Monster’s Ball, The Woodsman, Shadowboxer, The Paperboy, The Butler, Precious and more. More recently, LDE’s expansion into television has birthed what could be considered some of the most dynamic TV storytelling to date – FOX’s EMPIRE and STAR. In 2015, Lee Daniels went on to sign an overall development deal with Fox television, where he continues to create develop, write, direct and supervise new projects under his Lee Daniels Entertainment banner. Current projects include Good People, Sammy Davis Jr. Mini-Series, Superbitch, The Spook Who Sat By The Door, Ms. Pat and Mason Dixon.
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