Globe saw a surprise win on Sunday when Andra Day emerged as the Best Actress
in a Drama. This victory fermented her chances of getting herself an Oscar
nomination – drawing more attention to the film.
Lee Daniels movie views the FBI and Federal Department of Narcotics in a
different light, as it examines the relentless campaign that targeted the
singer Billie Holiday for her controversial performance in the song Strange
Fruit. The lyrics of the song were actually inspired by her experience of witnessing
lynched Black men hanging from the tree in the South.
a series of interviews, director Daniels explains why he felt that it was
almost urgent to make this movie now. Before its official screening, very few
people knew about its making. He further admitted the 1972 Diana Ross Holiday
biopic ‘Lady Sings the Blues’ was a big reason that inspired this movie.
revealed that he realized his passion for direction because of that film, and
that even after forty years, he had the drive to tell that story. He honestly
wanted to depict her life and her struggle with the government at the time.
when Suzan Lori Parks came to him with the script, it seemed like a sign from
the universe. She said that he was 58 or 59 at the time and he still hadn’t
understand the magnitude of “Strange Fruit”. He said that those lyrics and
words hit him and made him feel so visceral that there was no way of stopping
him from making that movie.
admitted that the way the government works is the same and, even today, those
words hit him hard. Thus, it was important for him to make this movie, as it
speaks about the time we’re living in.
would come as a surprise for many, but Daniels actually wasn’t so sure about
casting Andra Day for the role. In fact, he had also refused to meet the singer
as she had never acted before. He felt that she didn’t have the meat that is
required to carry the film.
his hesitation and preconceived notions about the singer just evaporated the moment
he met her. He went on to say that it was actually difficult for him to
convince her, as she herself is a perfectionist and didn’t believe that she
could pull off this role. He finally managed to talk her into it.She was a
revelation then and, today, she’s a Golden Globe winner!
Day, on the other hand, revealed why she was initially so reluctant to take on
the role and what made her change her mind. She said what literally anybody in
her shoes would say at the time:She was terrified of the role as she didn’t
know if she was capable of doing justice to it. However, it was Daniels who
convinced her and told her that he had looked at everybody else and that it was
her who was meant to do the role.
“I just kept playing in my head over and over
again. I was thinking I’m going to be that stain. You know what I mean? Once we
got over it…it was a mutual fear we shared. So was prayer. I was doing a
devotion, and I read a scripture about walking on water and about being caused
to do an act of great faith, and to face your fear instead of asking for the
storm to go away. You got to walk through it because that’s where the change,
where revelation is.” – She said.
a fan of “Lady Sings the Blues” herself, she was afraid that they would be
retelling the same story or at least with the same approach – something she
didn’t want. Thereby, when she read the script, she was relieved that it’s
wasn’t just a retelling of the same story but it had more gravitas and depth.
Daniels went on to sing praises of the entire ensemble that he
managed to bring together. He said that the group of actors he got to work with
are literal beasts and that he’s spoiled for life! He said that they did great
service to Billie.
more movie reviews and interview decoding, like our page on Facebook!
check out the trailer of The United States vs. Billie Holiday and let us know
what you feel about Billie Holiday’s depiction in the movie. The release date
of the movie was 26th February so go catch the movie on Hulu!
the new Hulu film shows Lee Daniels vision and takes forward Billie Holiday’s