The anxiously awaited biopic of Amy Winehouse, Back in Black, is still a few months away, but the first full-length trailer for the film has just dropped, giving Winehouse fans their first proper glimpse of Marisa Abela as the soulful British pop star who died of alcohol poisoning at the age of 27.
Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy), Back in Black places its focus squarely on Winehouse’s early years, living in London, her rapid rise to fame, and the recording of her acclaimed second LP that provides the film with its title.
In a recent interview with The Guardian, voice coach Anne-Marie Speed did a deep dive into just how difficult a process it was for Abela to find her inner Winehouse for the film.
“It’s full-time preparation,” said Speed. “It’s like an athlete, and people really underestimate how physical voice production can be. They don’t see it, but it really is. You’ve got to get the body working in the right way to truly support what’s happening and to produce the voice in that way. You want [the vocal performance] to be very close, but not an impression. Because otherwise, you might as well just mime to her recordings. I was seeing [Abela] four times a week for two-hour sessions for about three months before we started shooting. So it’s a big, big commitment.”
Per the Guardian piece, Abela had to learn to sing from scratch and underwent training both with Speed as well as an accent coach, not to mention having to take guitar lessons .
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That said, to hear director Taylor-Johnson tell it, Abela practically had the role sewed up before she ever opened her mouth.
“Most auditions, people would come in either with the headscarf, or with a bit of a slight back comb,” Taylor-Johnson told Empire Online. “Marisa came in as Marisa – absolutely no cat-eye makeup or anything. She was very sweet and very quiet. And then I turned on the camera, and she looks down the lens, and literally, we all just went, ‘What?!’ We'd seen some brilliant impersonations, but [Marisa] managed to just bring every fibre of her being in alignment with who Amy Winehouse was, and is to many people. She inhabited her.”
Back in Black is scheduled for release in the UK via Studiocanal on April 12 and in the US via Focus Features on May 17.