The long list of semi-historical/mostly fantastical biopics about the lives of famous musicians continues to grow at an alarming rate, but Madonna’s newly-announced biopic stands out from the crowded field for a number of reasons: firstly, because it’s one of the few so far that centers around a female artist, and secondly, because it’s the first to be co-written and directed by the biopic’s very own subject. Madonna, one of the biggest names in 80’s pop music, isn’t about to let someone else get to her life story first – she’s taking the reins herself and exercising almost complete creative control over how this movie gets made. Which is…interesting, to say the least.
It’s unclear yet if the biopic will cover one specific period of Madonna’s life, but the announcement from the artist herself makes me think that this is going to be a sprawling film that doesn’t miss any of the highlights of her career: from her work as “a musician, actress, director, author and entrepreneur who informs every aspect of global culture” to her role as a trendsetter “transforming our understanding of art, sexuality, feminism and the role of women in entertainment”. Some will call it egotistical, but in some regards, having Madonna herself be the driving force behind getting her biopic made could be an exciting opportunity to see more of the “unvarnished” and “untold” story that she promised in her press release. Does it come across as a bit self-congratulatory? Yeah, but it’s the sort of power move that Madonna is famous for, and autobiographical films are nothing new. The only real difference is that this is a story that most of us know – or think we know, according to Madonna – already, so it will be much easier to fact-check and tell truth from fiction.
Madonna Louise Ciccone was born in Michigan to Catholic parents. A college dropout, she moved to New York City and began performing as a backup singer and dancer. Her big break as a solo artist came in 1981 with the release of her debut single, Everybody, which became an instant hit. Throughout the 1980’s, Madonna continued to achieve success after success, while simultaneously revamping herself and her image on a regular basis, becoming a controversial figure towards the end of the decade due to her edgy performances and career choices. Nowadays, she has established herself as an activist for a number of issues, and founded the Raising Malawi charitable organization to try and help the nation’s orphans, who struggle with poverty, hunger, and hardship. Importantly to me, she arrived onstage at Eurovision 2019 with a politically-charged performance that had viewers a little confused and more than a little divided over whether to praise her bravado or scratch their own ears out. There’s certainly an entertaining story there.
The big question on everybody’s lips – and the question that earned my tweet about the upcoming biopic a place in the news story’s official Twitter Moment – is who will play the young Madonna. Some have suggested jokingly that Madonna will use de-aging technology to make herself the star: I don’t think that’s likely, so my ideal choice is Emmy-award winner Julia Garner, whose big breakout role in Netflix’s crime-drama Ozark has earned her critical acclaim, and whose effortless ability to rock eccentric, sparkly Met Gala fashion makes her the perfect candidate to pull off Madonna’s many, many, many elaborate costumes. Physically, the actress bears a strong resemblance to a young Madonna as well.
We’ll have to wait and see which direction Madonna and her co-writer Diablo Cody decide to go on, but at the moment I think it’s safe to say that this has quickly become one of the most highly-anticipated musical biopics: at least until a Fleetwood Mac or Led Zeppelin biopic gets announced. Personally, I’m very glad that this means another female musician will get the recognition she deserves on the big screen, and I’m excited to see more biopics like this, especially ones devoted to Black women and women of color in music: an Aretha Franklin biopic is already finished and just waiting for a break in coronavirus to release, and the popularity of the Gladys Knight/Patti LaBelle livestream concert gives me hope that one or both of those outstanding women will be the subject of another film.
What are your feelings on Madonna’s music and legacy, and who would you like to see play her? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!