Joplin was a rock-and-roll icon in the 1960s that rose to fame with Big Brother and the Holding Company before dying of a drug overdose in 1970 at age 27. Newman has long held rights to a good portion of Joplin’s catalog and a large collection of written materials, which will be used to create a depiction of the last six months of her life.
Durkin is also set to write the script, though he hasn’t yet begun, which makes the producers’ goal of starting production early in 2013 unlikely.
Several incarnations of Joplin’s story have been developed over the years, with a number of actresses eager to play the ‘60s wild child, but Arianda brings a fresh face to the project. She’ll also need to bring a killer voice, since Joplin’s gravel-road screech is going to be tough to replicate.
Regardless, the musician biopic has often been irresistible to Oscar voters, with Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles (“Ray,” 2004), Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash (“Walk the Line,” 2005) and Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf (“La vie en rose,” 2007) all grabbing lead actor nominations in recent years (Foxx and Cotillard won). Given that Joplin indulged in many of the same ways as those performers, it’s a good bet that a striking portrayal by Arianda could add awards to her Tony for “Venus in Fur.”