Sam Taylor-Johnson may have found her Amy Winehouse (and she didn’t even need to put actors through a pop star bootcamp). According to Variety, up-and-comer Marisa Abela is a frontrunner for the role in Back To Black, which was announced earlier this month.
The outlet previously reported that the Back To Black team were looking to hire a relatively unknown actor to play the late, great vocal powerhouse. Industry is one of Abela’s first professional credits; she previously appeared in the Sky TV series Cobra and can next be seen in the Gemma Aerton-led thriller Rogue Agent. She’s also part of the all-star ensemble for Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, so with Back To Black on the radar, it seems she won’t be an “unknown” for much longer.
None of these other roles include a vocal showcase, but per Variety, her profile for Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (from which she graduated in 2019) lists her as a singer, specifically an alto, which should align with Winehouse’s own lower register. The actor is also of Jewish heritage, “which has been important to the creative team behind the movie, in order to be as authentic as possible to Winehouse’s own background,” per Variety.
The Winehouse biopic is a long gestating project that has been developing in fits and starts over the years. The Winehouse estate officially signed a deal for the movie back in 2018, but film finally picked up steam when Taylor-Johnson (reportedly a “close friend” of Winehouse) became attached.
Screenwriter Matt Greenhalgh (who penned the screenplay for Taylor-Johnson’s John Lennon film Nowhere Boy) is on board to write Back To Black’s script. Studiocanal will produce with Alison Owen and Debra Hayward alongside Tracey Seaward, acting under the full blessing of the singer’s father Mitch Winehouse. It was he who first suggested an “unknown, young, English” star for the film, so it follows that Abela fits his vision for the actor playing his daughter.