The Madonna biopic that had been slated to star three-time Emmy winner Julia Garner (Ozark) is no longer movie forward at Universal Pictures, according to multiple reports.
Just last week, the Material Girl announced a world tour that would celebrate her entire career, which sparked speculation that the movie may be in trouble, as the singer had been set to direct it herself. Variety broke the news, citing insiders who say that Madonna’s sole focus right now is the tour, which is why the movie has been put on the back burner, though the Hollywood Reporter claims that the project was shelved late last year before the tour was announced (though it had surely been in the works).
According to THR, it was the script that was the problem, not Madonna’s touring schedule, which will only take up a few months of her time. For the biopic, she spent at least two years working with top screenwriters such as Diablo Cody and Erin Cressida Wilson, though the trade reports that none of the script’s many drafts ever came in under 180 pages, as Madonna struggled to condense her 40-year career into a two-hour movie.
With Madonna at the helm and a three-hour running time in mind, the project seemed untenable to Universal brass, who even considered splitting the movie into two or turning it into an event miniseries. In the end, the studio put the project into turnaround, so they could always revisit it down the line, or Madonna could bring it to another studio that might be a bit more amenable to her creative vision.
Indeed, Variety‘s sources indicated that Madonna would still like to direct her own biopic one day, while Showbiz 411 spoke to Garner at the Critics Choice Awards, where she explained that though she never had a deal to play Madonna, she expects to play the iconic artist “if the movie ever happens.” After all, she didn’t suffer 11-hour days of dance choreography boot camp for nothing…
It struck me as odd that Universal would just let this project go, given its commercial potential, and I was initially surprised that the studio wouldn’t just put another director on it (Greta Gerwig would be interesting), or wait for a satisfactory script to come in and Madonna’s world tour to end, but if the script just wasn’t working, perhaps it’s best for all involved that everyone just walks away rather than make a bloated, poorly-written biopic.
Madonna previously directed the indie movies Filth and Wisdom (2008) and W.E. (2011), though her own biopic would’ve come with high commercial expectations. Amy Pascal — who worked with Madonna on 1992’s A League of Their Own — was set to produce the movie, which was first announced in 2020, though as we know, it’s always a dicey proposition when an artist is involved in their own biopic, as they typically sand the rough edges off of their lives and careers. Madonna is no different, and it sounds like she (and her longtime manager Guy Oseary, who would’ve executive produced the film with Sara Zambreno) and Universal brass just didn’t see eye to eye. Stay tuned for further developments…
A representative for Universal Pictures declined to comment or otherwise elaborate on the studio’s decision to put the Madonna biopic into turnaround.