Back to Black: Trailer for controversial Amy Winehouse biopic released

Back to Black: Trailer for controversial Amy Winehouse biopic released

The first trailer for a new – and already controversial – Amy Winehouse biopic has been released.

Back to Black, which is directed by Nowhere Boy and Fifty Shades of Grey filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson, will be released on 12 April, almost 13 years after the late singer’s death aged 27.

The film takes its title from Winehouse’s second and final studio album of the same name, which received worldwide acclaim and won the singer five Grammy Awards.

Starring Marisa Abela, who plays Yasmin Kara-Hanani in the TV series Industry, Back to Black will portray the late singer at the peak of her career as she navigates addiction and her marriage to her ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil, played by Jack O’Connell.

The new biopic is said to focus on her “extraordinary genius, creativity and honesty that infused everything she did”.

However, early glimpses of the film have already proved controversial. Some Amy Winehouse fans were disappointed when photos of actor Abela, pictured outside London jazz bar Ronnie Scott’s, were released. Taken while filming Back to Black, Abela is seen wearing the singer’s signature beehive in disarray; black eyeliner smeared around her eyes; a distraught expression on her face.

“F***ing revolting,” said one comment in response to the images released by film production company STUDIOCANAL UK.

Some took issue with Abela’s lack of resemblance to Winehouse. Meanwhile, others took issue with the fact this film, Back to Black, is being made at all.

Marisa Abela and Eddie Marsan filming ‘Back to Black’ (GC Images/Getty)
Marisa Abela and Eddie Marsan filming ‘Back to Black’ (GC Images/Getty)

In an opinion piece about the motivations behind making the biopic, The Independent’s music editor Roisin O’Connor wrote: “Given the vulture-like efficiency with which her life was picked over, it’s near-impossible to think of a sincere reason to make a movie about Winehouse – at least not one that isn’t motivated by greed. This July will mark 12 years since her death from accidental alcohol poisoning.”

“Despite her achieving so much in a woefully short career – record deals, Brit Awards, Grammys, adulation from fans and her peers – we will always be faced with the knowledge that she could have achieved so much more.

Still, when the images were released, Winehouse’s ex-bassist defended the film and said that Abela’s portrayal of the late singer is “evocative”.

Amy Winehouse died in 2011 aged 27 (PA Archive)
Amy Winehouse died in 2011 aged 27 (PA Archive)

Dale Davis, who was Winehouse’s bass player for eight months before her death, has since remarked how “uncanny” the actor’s performance is.

“There are certain times when I look at Marisa and I’m reminded of Amy, especially in the make-up and sometimes when she talks,” Davis told Mail Online.

“I’m actually taken back to moments in time,” he said. “It’s quite evocative in that way.”

Winehouse’s father, Mitch has since defended the casting, telling US website TMZ: “Marisa’s a great choice for the role, even if she doesn’t look exactly like Amy.”

The film was written by Matt Greenhalgh, who previously scripted Taylor-Johnson’s John Lennon film Nowhere Boy (2009).

Several films have already been made about Winehouse’s life and legacy, such as the 2015 film Amy – which received critical acclaim but was heavily criticised by Winehouse’s father who called it “misleading” – and the 2021 BBC documentary Reclaiming Amy.

The Amy Winehouse Estate said of the film: “We are thrilled that Studiocanal, Focus Features and Monumental are making this movie celebrating our daughter Amy’s extraordinary music legacy and showcasing her talent in the way that it deserves.”

It was reported by Variety last year that Back to Black was a “passion project” for Taylor-Johnson, who was close friends with Winehouse.

Back to Black will be released in cinemas across the UK and Ireland on 12 April 2024.