EXCLUSIVE: A24 is putting together a film package that will have Emmy-winning Euphoria star Zendaya attached to play singer Ronnie Spector in a film about her life. Deals have just closed for Spector’s life rights and for Be My Baby, the book she wrote with Vince Waldron. I’m hearing that early conversations are happening with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury to write the script.
The film will be produced by Marc Platt, who is producing the Rob Marshall-directed The Little Mermaid, Dear Evan Hansen and Wicked. Jonathan Greenfield and Ronnie Spector will be the exec producers and Zendaya will also be involved as a producer as all these deals come together.
Much the way that Aretha Franklin personally endorsed Jennifer Hudson to play her in the upcoming MGM biopic Respect, Spector chose Zendaya as the actress she wished to portray her in her early years. She grew up in Spanish Harlem and started the girl group The Ronettes with her older sister Estelle Bennett and their cousin Nedra Talley. They were signed by famously volatile record producer Phil Spector to his Philles Record label and there they had their breakthrough hit Be My Baby. She married Spector and as she writes in the book, it was clear she had made a big mistake when she woke up one morning to the sound of bars being installed on the windows of their mansion. She smartly fought for the rights to her music in the subsequent divorce, and she was eventually inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and had a second wind when reprised her most famous hit in singing a duet with Eddie Money on Take Me Home Tonight.
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It looked like the movie would take root at Fox last year, but the sale of that studio to Disney stopped its momentum. A24 is a good fit, as it produces Euphoria. Zendaya just became the youngest actress to win Lead Actress in a Drama series — she is 24 — and the second Black woman to win that category after Viola Davis did it first. She is about as hot a young actress as you’ll find. To go with her work in Spider-Man: Homecoming and its sequels, she co-stars in the upcoming Denise Villenueve-directed Dune, and also Malcolm & Marie. On that one, she asked Euphoria EP Sam Levinson to write a movie that could be shot during the pandemic. They got Tenet’s John David Washington to co-star, and the resulting black-and-white small budget film created a heated auction at the Toronto Film Festival Market before Netflix bought it for $30 million.
The life rights and book deals were made together by Ronnie’s manager Jon Greenfield and Hotchkiss Daily & Associates; Zendaya is repped by CAA.
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