Lee Daniels’s work is headed to the big screen—again.
The Precious director’s The United States vs. Billie Holiday was scooped up by Paramount Pictures in an eight-figure deal via Cannes Virtual Market, Deadline reports.
The film, penned by Pulitzer Prize winner Suzan-Lori Parks, stars Grammy nominee Andra Day as the incomparable jazz great. While Lady Day was loved by many at home and overseas, the feds, specifically Harry J. Anslinger, the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, were determined to silence the singer.
Holiday was ordered stop singing her anti-lynching song, “Strange Fruit,” which served as a call to action for the Civil Rights Movement. The singer refused to oblige the authorities and a sting operation ensued. Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight, Bird Box) plays federal agent Jimmy Fletcher, the man who led the investigation into Holiday’s narcotic use. Fletcher also had an affair with the singer. High Fidelity’s Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Mudbound’s Garrett Hedlund and Russian Doll’s Natasha Lyonne round out the cast.
The film has special significance given the world’s collective cry against racial injustice. “I hope The United States vs. Billie Holiday will add to this important conversation by shining a light on systemic racism and social injustice,” said Daniels about his work when it was announced on the Cannes Virtual Market. “I also feel that in this time of great reckoning, it is essential we celebrate the life and artistry of an unsung civil rights warrior, Billie Holiday.”
Parks used Scottish writer Johann Hari’s book, Chasing the Scream: The First & Last Days of the War on Drugs, as “source material.”