Marisa Abela Takes on Amy Winehouse’s Signature Beehive for ‘Back to Black’ Biopic Lead Role


amy winehouse biopic - Credit: Courtesy of Focus Features

amy winehouse biopic – Credit: Courtesy of Focus Features

Back to Black, the forthcoming biopic aiming to trace Amy Winehouse’s journey from Camden girl to celebrity, has found its Amy. The film, directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, will feature Industry actress Marisa Abela in the titular role. The 26-year-old was rumored to be joining the movie last year — over four years since it was first announced and over three since production was scheduled to begin. Filming will start later this month.

“And for London. This is for London. Cause Camden Town ain’t burnin down,” Abela captioned a photo of herself on Instagram standing in front of a giant mural of Winehouse. “I love you, Amy.” The quote comes from the late singer’s acceptance speech at the 2008 Grammy Awards, where she won Record of the Year for “Rehab” from her acclaimed sophomore record Back to Black. Closing out her speech, Winehouse dedicated the award to her hometown of Camden, the London neighborhood ravished by a fire earlier that year, screaming: “This is for Camden.”

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The first-look images for Back to Black reveal Abela, a fellow Brit who hails from Brighton, as Winehouse, donning her signature face piercing and iconic beehive up-do. In another slide on Instagram, the actress is pictured from her lips down, wearing a replica of the singer’s Amy Jade nameplate necklace and giant bamboo earrings.

“My connection to Amy began when I left college and was hanging out in the creatively diverse London borough of Camden,” Taylor-Johnson shared in a statement. “I got a job at the legendary KOKO club, and I can still breathe every market stall, vintage shop, and street… A few years later Amy wrote her searingly honest songs whilst living in Camden. Like with me, it became part of her DNA. I first saw her perform at a talent show at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in Soho and it was immediately obvious she wasn’t just ’talent’… she was genius.”

She added: “As a filmmaker you can’t really ask for more. I feel excited and humbled to have this opportunity to realise Amy’s beautifully unique and tragic story to cinema accompanied by the most important part of her legacy – her music. I am fully aware of the responsibility, with my writing collaborator – Matt Greenhalgh – I will create a movie that we will all love and cherish forever. Just like we do Amy.”

When the film was first announced in 2018, it had been reported that proceeds from the bipoic will benefit the Amy Winehouse Foundation. Winehouse’s father, Mitch Winehouse, shared a statement at the time confirming her family and estate’s support. “We now feel able to celebrate Amy’s extraordinary life and talent,” he said. “And we know through the Amy Winehouse Foundation that the true story of her illness can help so many others who might be experiencing similar issues.”

While speaking to the Sun that year about casting, Winehouse’s father stated that he wanted whoever filled the role of his daughter to echo her true self. “I wouldn’t mind betting it would be an unknown, young, English — London, Cockney — actress who looks a bit like Amy,” he said. “What we want is somebody to portray Amy in the way that she was… the funny, brilliant, charming and horrible person that she was. There’s no point really me making the film because I’m her dad. But to get the right people to do it, that’s very important, and we will.”

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