Playwright and screenwriter Susan-Lori Parks adapted USA vs. Billy Holiday from Johan Harry’s 2015 book on the war on drugs, Chasing the scream, and the film, which will debut on Hulu in February, depicts the U.S. government’s harassment of the holiday over heroin use in the context of the FBI’s efforts to suppress its performance of “Strange Fruit,” which the government fears will fuel anger. of Black Americans.
Day, in his first major acting role, appears against Trevante Rhodes, who plays a mysterious figure who goes behind the scenes one night and turns out to have more complex motives than those of the average fan. Gareth Hedlund is Harry Anslinger, the FBI̵
For Daniels, who garnered nominations for Best Picture and Best Director for his 2009 film. Precious: Based on the novel “Push” by Sapphireand who produced the 2001s Monster ball, the 1972 film by Diana Ross / Billy Dee Williams about Billy Holiday, The lady sings the blue ones, were formative. “At the age of 13 I saw[[[[The lady sings the blue ones]in Philadelphia and I saw two blacks in love, Diana Ross and Billy Dee Williams, “says Daniels, now 61.” They were beautiful, stunning. This fashion was great. That was all I grew up with as a child from the town of Philly, except it was in Harlem and it just smelled like my life. I had never seen anything like it. That was the reason I ended up directing, which is weird because I ended up directing her story, but it wasn’t a story. That was a lie. Make me believe. Where the 1972 film is a romanticized portrait of Holiday’s relationship with her fourth husband and road manager, Louis McKay, who retains control of his mansion, Daniels says: “I really wanted to show black people that we don’t.” I see very often – it’s not enough and messy, but it’s still beautiful. “
Before filming, Daniels said he called Motown record company founder Berry Gordy, who produced The lady sings the blue ones, to ask permission – and I got it. “I don’t think I would have made the movie if he said don’t do it,” Daniels said.
At first, several people, including Daniels’ manager and agents, called on him to consider Day for the role, but he was resilient. “I don’t like to be pressured into anything,” he said. But he met Day “and she was charming and she embodied Billy’s spirit,” Daniels said. “I sent her to an actor because she hadn’t acted before. And the acting coach on the move turned on his iPhone and showed me how to prepare and get into character. Only from those 30 seconds of videos did I see Billy Break without question. The game had begun. There was no acting. It was just. “A day later, she sang” Strange Fruit “at an official audition for Daniels, and her casting was sealed.
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter. Stream USA vs. Billy Holiday on Hulu.com.