In June, the internet went mad when news reports surfaced about the gruelling audition process some of Hollywood’s biggest stars had put themselves through to play Madonna in her upcoming, self-directed biopic.
Stars including Florence Pugh and Euphoria’s Alexa Demie had been part of a months-long competitive bootcamp which included singing and acting lessons, and, reportedly, 11-hour sessions with Madonna’s choreographer.
In the end, Inventing Anna star Julia Garner came out on top – but now, it seems like it was all for nothing, because the biopic has been abandoned.
The internet – always onboard for another pop culture drama –naturally had a lot to say. “The Madonna biopic was a 24 month sociological study conducted by Harvard University. We are now complete with our study. Thank you for your time,” joked one Twitter user.
“The only reasonable course of action now is for Madonna to star in a Julia Garner biopic,” Tweeted another, while a third said, “Madonna scrapping her biopic to go on tour,” alongside a clip of Garner’s most famous Anna Delvey lines, “I do not have time for this, I do not have time for you!”
Madonna scrapping her biopic to go on tour pic.twitter.com/RjxB1Dmlu4
— Shannon O'Connor (@ShannonOConnor0) January 24, 2023
Just release footage from the Madonna boot camp without ever making a biopic it’s what the people really want
— Jackson McHenry (@McHenryJD) January 24, 2023
Wait so is the Madonna biopic not happening then or what pic.twitter.com/MCochzrFuB
— The Quadfather (@matticure) January 18, 2023
Somewhere a man is planning to make a film about Madonna’s attempts to make her biopic. He’ll probably win awards.
— Ryan Love (@RyanJL) January 24, 2023
So far, neither Madonna nor Garner have made public statements about the biopic news, but both artists still follow each other on Instagram.
The film’s abandonment, which was first reported by Variety, has been put down to the fact that Madonna is going on a world tour.
According to Variety, “Insiders familiar with Madonna said her sole focus is the tour,” but that she “remains committed” to making the film “one day”.
The 35-city tour was, rather uniquely, announced last week via a YouTube video skit that starred Amy Schumer and Jack Black. “Come join the party!” Madonna then wrote next to an Instagram post.
As many as 600,000 tickets were immediately sold, and 36 shows sold out – so many that 23 new dates were added to venues across North America and Europe.
The tour will open in Vancouver on July 15, this summer, and will close in Amsterdam five months later on December 1. Special guest Bob the Drag Queen a.k.a. Caldwell Tidicue (the winner of season eight’s RuPaul’s Drag Race) will be joining the tour.
Given that Madonna’s last tour, the Madame X Tour, ended in March 2020 (just three days before its planned conclusion, as the pandemic hit) the scrambling for tickets shows the icon’s lasting cultural relevance, 39 long years after the release of her debut album, Madonna.
Up to this point, however, the biopic has very much seemed like Madonna’s passion project: “I want to convey the incredible journey that life has taken me on as an artist, a musician, a dancer – a human being, trying to make her way in this world,” she had said in a statement about the film.
“The focus of this film will always be music. Music has kept me going and art has kept me alive. There are so many untold and inspiring stories and who better to tell it than me. It’s essential to share the rollercoaster ride of my life with my voice and vision.” In February last year the singer shared that the film, at that time at least, was called Little Sparrow.
Over the last two years Madonna was very open about the film’s creation process, posting several now cancelled videos on social media about the forthcoming project. In one she said: “When you’re stuck in a house with multiple injuries what do you do.? ...........Write a Screenplay with Diablo Cody”, alongside some emojis of musical notes.
The 64-year-old first started writing the script alongside Cody, who won an Oscar for the screenplay for Juno (2007). Later it was reported that Erin Cressida Wilson, who adapted Girl On The Train in 2016, had taken over.
According to The Sun, Cody had exited the project because Madonna was “too difficult to work with”. An insider allegedly said: “Madonna is understandably very particular about how she wants [the film] to be. She’s a perfectionist and because it is about her life, she is being very careful about how things come across.
“Diablo needed more freedom to be able to make it work and ultimately decided she couldn’t contribute any more.” However, Entertainment Weekly reported that before Cody left, she and Madonna had completed a first draft together.
Although a cast list hadn’t been announced, there was an all-star team behind the project. Amy Pascal, who worked on Little Women, Spider-Man: No Way Home and Molly’s Game, and who worked with Madonna back in 1992 on the sports-comedy film A League of Their Own, was pegged to be producing. Julia Fox, who had been seen at several events with Madonna, was reportedly also in talks to have a role in the film, potentially playing actor Debi Mazar, a long-time friend of Madonna’s.
To top it all off, the biopic, which was first announced in 2020, had apparently been won by Universal after a furious bidding war.
For now, Madonna fans will have to be satisfied with the other two feature films she has directed: Madonna directed the 2008 film Filth and Wisdom, which was near-universally panned (Rolling Stone called it “irredeemably dull” and Rotten Tomatoes awarded it an embarrassingly low 25 per cent Tomatometer rating). She also directed 2011’s W.E. which was markedly less criticised and which starred Oscar-nominated British actress Andrea Riseborough as Wallis Simpson and James D’Arcy as King Edward VIII.
Little Sparrow is the second shelved Madonna biopic out there: in 2017 Universal made their first attempt at making a film about the Like A Prayer singer, buying a script by writer Elyse Hollander which had topped the 2016 Black List (the Black List is the go-to industry platform for undeveloped scripts).
Madonna was furious about it, saying, “Why would Universal Studios want to make a movie about me based on a script that is all lies??? Nobody knows what I know and what I have seen. Only I can tell my story. Anyone else who tries is a charlatan and a fool.”
So until Madonna picks up the biopic again, fans will just have to wait – or pacify themselves with Celebration Tour tickets.