19 Music Biopics in the Works, From Elvis Presley to Aretha Franklin

The Bee Gees, Madonna, Whitney Houston and more are looking for their “Bohemian Rhapsody” moment

With the box office and awards season success of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” music biopics are roaring back. We’ve seen audiences jump on films like “Rocketman” based on the life of Elton John and “I Am Woman” about Helen Reddy. But many others are currently in the works, including films about Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, Bob Marley, John Lennon and Yoko Ono. 

Amy Winehouse – Monumental Pictures’ Alison Owen and Debra Hayward are producing a film on the life of the late Amy Winehouse. They’ll be working in coordination with Winehouse’s father Mitch, who previously said in a statement that he felt finally the “time was right.” No cast has been set for the film.

“Respect” – Aretha Franklin – Before her death in 2018, Aretha Franklin chose Jennifer Hudson to portray her on film. The biopic follows the Queen of Soul from her childhood singing in her father’s choir, through the tumultuous, cultural revolution in the 1960s at the start of her career, and on the way to becoming an international icon. Tommy Liesl is directing the film from a script by Oscar winner Callie Khouri. 

The Bee Gees – Paramount acquired the life rights to the family estate of Maurice, Robin and Barry Gibb and the disco band The Bee Gees and is in the works on a film about their career.

Bob Marley – Bob Marley’s son Ziggy is producing the currently-in-development biopic about the iconic reggae singer’s life with Paramount Pictures. Marley helped introduce reggae to mainstream audiences around the globe and helped change the landscape of music before dying of cancer at age 36.

Boy George – MGM will produce a feature biopic on the life of Boy George, the flamboyant and charismatic frontman of the pop band Culture Club. Sacha Gervasi (“Anvil: The Story of Anvil”) is writing and directing the film that will chart his childhood in a working-class Irish family up through his international success as a solo artist.

Buddy Holly – Bruce Beresford is directing a biopic about the life and untimely passing of pioneering guitarist Buddy Holly called “Clear Lake.” The film is named for the area in Iowa where Holly was killed. Ruairi O’Connor is portraying Holly in the film, and Nelly is also attached as Chuck Berry. 

“Beautiful” – Carole King – The film adaptation of the Tony-winning Broadway musical “Beautiful” about the life and career of Carole King was first announced back in 2015, and an individual with knowledge of the project told TheWrap that “Beautiful” is still in development. While no cast or director has been set, Tom Hanks, Paul Blake and Gary Goetzman are set to produce an adaptation based on the musical book by Douglas McGrath. The play is a jukebox musical featuring many of King’s hits as it charts the early part of her career, including “You’ve Got a Friend,” “One Fine Day,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “Natural Woman” and many more.

“The Power of Love” – Celine Dion – Valérie Lemercier will star in and direct this feature inspired by the life and career of Canadian singing powerhouse Celine Dion, which will also feature her songs. The film is in the French language.

Elvis Presley – “Moulin Rouge” director Baz Luhrmann is helming a still-untitled biopic about the life of Elvis Presley at Warner Bros., with Tom Hanks as “Colonel Tom” Parker and Austin Butler as the King.

Gucci Mane – In February 2019, Paramount Players and Imagine Entertainment acquired the life rights to Gucci Mane and kicked off development on a music biopic based on the rapper’s book “The Autobiography of Gucci Mane.” Imagine’s Brian Grazer and Erica Huggins are producing the project, and Mane is executive producing with Todd Moscowitz. His book talks about how Mane released mixtapes from prison alongside other rappers like Migos and Young Thug. 

Heart – Heart singer Ann Wilson first told a SiriusXM show that a biopic about her band with her sister Nancy Wilson was in the works at Amazon and that “Portlandia” and Sleater-Kinney star Carrie Brownstein would be writing the screenplay. The film follows the sisters’ life story and goes up through the 1990s in tracking the “Barracuda” band’s journey. No director is attached. 

John Lennon and Yoko Ono – “Bohemian Rhapsody” scribe Anthony McCarten wrote the screenplay for an untitled biopic about the romance between John Lennon and Yoko Ono, along with their activism and strive for peace. Ono herself approved the story after producer Josh Bratman lobbied her to bring it to the screen. Jean Marc Vallée (“Big Little Lies,” “Dallas Buyers Club”) is directing the film.

Lang Lang – Ron Howard will direct a biopic on the life of Lang Lang, the world-renowned Chinese pianist about his journey from life in Northern China to making it to the Beijing Central Conservatory of Music and to international acclaim. Michelle Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney wrote the screenplay based on Lang Lang’s own memoir co-written with David Ritz called “Journey of a Thousand Miles.” 

Leonard Bernstein – Bradley Cooper is following up “A Star Is Born” by taking on the life story of the legendary composer Leonard Bernstein. Cooper will direct and star in the music biopic, as well as write the script with Josh Singer (“First Man,” “Spotlight”). Netflix and Amblin Partners are co-financing the project about the New York Philharmonic music director and composer of “West Side Story.” At one point Jake Gyllenhaal was attached to star in a separate Bernstein biopic from director Cary Fukunaga.

Madonna – After a screenplay called “Blond Ambition” about Madonna’s life landed on the Black List, the Material Girl said that only she could tell her story. Years later, Madonna herself will direct the film about her own life story, and she even wrote a screenplay for the film alongside “Juno” writer Diablo Cody. The project is in the works at Universal.

Ronnie Spector – “Euphoria” actress Zendaya was in talks to portray Ronnie Spector, the Ronettes singer known for songs like “Be My Baby” and “The Best Part of Breaking Up” that A24 and New Regency are developing. Marc Platt would produce, but no writer or director is attached. 

Sammy Davis Jr. – MGM is in development on a biopic on the life of Sammy Davis Jr., the singer and Rat Pack legend, and “The Chi” creator Lena Waithe is producing the film based on a book by Davis Jr.’s daughter Tracy. 

Teddy Pendergrass – Tyrese Gibson will play R&B legend Teddy Pendergrass from Warner Bros., who acquired the rights to the singer’s life in February. Pendergrass’ story is ripe for adaptation, as he rose to fame as part of the group Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes before breaking out as a solo artist. Pendergrass suffered a major spinal cord injury in a car crash in 1982 that left him paralyzed, leading him to fight to come back as part of the Live Aid concert in 1985. He died in 2010. Gibson is also producing with the “Empire” creator Lee Daniels and Donald De Line. Pendergrass’ widow is an executive producer. 

Whitney Houston – Sony acquired the rights to this music biopic about the life of Whitney Houston, which will be directed by “The Photograph” filmmaker Stella Meghie and is being written by “Bohemian Rhapsody” scribe Anthony McCarten. The film covers her prime as a performer, her work on “The Bodyguard” and her performance of the National Anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl while alluding to her tragic death. 
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