The 2016 Black List—a list of unproduced screenplays that industry insiders rank in order of preference—was topped by, of all things, a Madonna biopic. Now some scripts that land on the Black List never get produced, and others are high-profile screenplays just waiting to be made like Aaron Sorkin’s The Social Network. A biopic of a still-living and very much still-touring recording artist was a bit of a twist, but Elyse Hollander’s script must be that good because Universal Pictures has just secured the rights for Blond Ambition and is now moving forward with the Madonna biopic.
Per THR, Michel De Luca (The Social Network, Fifty Shades of Grey) and Brett Ratner are attached to produce the film, which is set in the early 1980s and tracks Madonna’s work on her first album, “struggling in a business that treats women badly, while also dealing with a burgeoning love life and the first hints of fame. That debut album, Madonna, yielded hits like “Borderline”, “Holiday”, and “Lucky Star” and set the pop artist on the path towards superstardom.
Hollander is a freshman screenwriter, previously having served as an assistant to director Alejandro G. Iñárritu when he made Birdman, and one hopes she’s tapped into the misogyny that Madonna faced when first starting out. The Black List #1 slot is certainly a vote of confidence, and no doubt a number of actresses and filmmakers will be vying for this project.
So who should fill the role of Madonna? It’s a tough one, especially since Madonna is still very much in the spotlight. It may be preferable to go with a newcomer who can fully inhabit the role, although one imagines someone like Margot Robbie could also really knock this out of the park. And then there’s the matter of who should direct. David Fincher’s history with the 80s music video era and overall masterful talent would bode well if he didn’t have his own personal connection to the lead figure—he and Madonna were in a relationship after he helmed her groundbreaking videos for hits like “Vogue” and “Express Yourself.”
I think handing this to a wildly talented female filmmaker is the way to go here—someone who can inherently understand what it’s like for a woman to enter a male-dominated business and succeed against all odds.