On the heels of buzz around Andre 3000’s Jimi Hendrix biopic All Is By My Side comes news that the long-in-the-works Janis Joplin biopic has finally secured a director, a leading lady, and some serious publishing support.
According to Deadline, Joplin will be played by Tony-winning stage actress Nina Arianda, making her on-screen debut in a starring role; she won the Best Actress nod last month for her theatrical part in Venus in Fur, but has also played supporting parts in films like Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris (as Carol) and the surprisingly well-liked Tower Heist (as Miss Iovenko). Sean Durkin, the director whose first (and awfully good) major film Martha Marcy May Marlene essentially pwned Sundance earlier this year (he got a Dramatic Directing Award for it), will helm the new film, an accomplishment which he says took him and his collaborators 12 years “trying to put an indie film together.”
It gets better — unlike the Hendrix doc, which can include Beatles covers but no actual Hendrix music, the Joplin picture will feature rights aplenty. Not only does the film, which has an extra-indie budget of $20 million and will be backed in part by the producers of Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale, feature “exclusive use of 21 of Joplin’s best-known songs,” Arianda singing all of them; Durkin has also secured “the life rights and arrangements of [Joplin’s] backing band, Big Brother and the Holding Company” as well as those for a collection of the singer’s written letters, called Love, Janis, that was published in 2001, 31 years after her death, by her sister Laura Joplin. He’s also wielding rights to Rolling Stone reporter David Dalton’s Joplin heart wrenching multimedia biography Piece of My Heart, which he compiled after following her on tour over the six months that led up to her death. In other words, this film is packing a serious copyright punch in an age where that kind of thing is often quite hard to come by.
While those unfamiliar with the annals of Broadway might not be as psyched about Arianda’s film debut as the wailing icon as they were about Stacks’ casting, they may take comfort in the fact that this particular job won’t be manned by Pink, Renee Zellweger, Amy Adams, or even Zooey Deschanel, as previously speculated (the latter will be a little busy with another icon sooner or later, anyway).