A successful major sale is coming out of the virtual Cannes market. In an eight-figure deal sold by Endeavor Content, Paramount has won bids to North American rights for The United States Vs. Billie Holiday. The deal happened after Sierra/Affinity unveiled four minutes of footage to international buyers at the Cannes market. That was enough for numerous studios to pursue the project, including Focus Features, Sony and 101 Studios, with ultimately Paramount winning over according to Deadline.
The project marks the first feature film made by Lee Daniels in nearly a decade. Daniels will direct, produce, and co-write the script on music icon Billie Holiday. Pulitzer-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks also penned the script, using “Chasing the Scream: The First & Last Days of the War on Drugs” by Johann Hari as the source material.
Grammy winner Andra Day stars as the titular legendary jazz musician, alongside Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight), Garrett Hedlund (Country Strong), Natasha Lyonne (Orange is the New Black), and Da’Vine Joy Randolph (Dolemite Is My Name).
The project is centered around the dramatic true story of the Federal Department of Narcotics targeting the jazz legend with a sting operation. While Holiday spent much of her career being adored by the fans across the world, the federal agents aimed at prohibiting her from singing the controversial song ‘Strange Fruit’, which was widely known as a “call to action that would herald the modern Civil Rights movement.”
Daniels also commented: “With the world’s eyes forced to look at the centuries-old oppression of Black people, I hope The United States Vs. Billie Holiday will add to this important conversation by shining a light on systemic racism and social injustice. 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.”
The feature film is currently in post-production. No release date has been revealed, although it expects to be a major awards season release in the upcoming season.