Amy Winehouse’s Father Defends Upcoming ‘Back to Black’ Biopic Casting Against Backlash

"Industry" breakout Marisa Abela is playing the late Grammy winner in the upcoming film directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson.
Marisa Abela stars as Amy Winehouse in director Sam Taylor-Johnson's BACK TO BLACK, a Focus Features release. Credit : Focus Features
Marisa Abela stars as Amy Winehouse in "Back to Black"
Courtesy of Focus features

Amy Winehouse’s father is standing by the controversial casting of the upcoming biopic “Back to Black.”

After fans reacted to the late singer being portrayed onscreen for the first time, Mitch Winehouse stood by the casting of “Industry” breakout Marisa Abela as the Grammy-winning singer.

“Marisa’s a great choice for the role, even if she doesn’t look exactly like Amy,” Mitch told TMZ amid social media backlash to first-look images.

The Focus Features film is helmed by Sam Taylor-Johnson (“Fifty Shades of Grey,” “Nowhere Boy”) with production beginning January 16 in London. The film follows Amy’s “vibrant years living in London in the early aughts and her intense journey to fame,” per an official logline.

Eddie Marsan plays Mitch in the film, with “Skins” alum Jack O’Connell cast as Amy’s ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil. The couple divorced in 2009, two years before Amy’s overdose death in 2011. Lesley Manville stars as Amy’s maternal grandmother. Amy’s friends were reportedly not consulted on the project.

Director Taylor-Johnson said in a press statement that the film will honor Amy’s “genius” artistry, calling herself a “close friend” of the late singer.

“I first saw her perform at a talent show at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in Soho and it was immediately obvious she wasn’t just ‘talent,’ she was genius. As a filmmaker you can’t really ask for more,” Taylor-Johnson said. “I feel excited and humbled to have this opportunity to realize Amy’s beautifully unique and tragic story to cinema accompanied by the most important part of her legacy – her music. I am fully aware of the responsibility, with my writing collaborator — Matt Greenhalgh — I will create a movie that we will all love and cherish forever. Just like we do Amy.”

Mitch shared a photo on Instagram of actors Marsan and Abela in character as father-daughter. Mitch owns half of Amy’s estate and legally approves the use of her music. “Back to Black” was greenlit during what would have been Amy’s 40th year, with the “Tears Dry on Their Own” singer’s birthday in September.

Amy died July 23, 2011, at age 27. Mitch commemorated the anniversary of her passing in 2022, writing, “11 years ago Amy passed into immortality. She will always be 27 years old and she will always sing our favorite songs. And we will always miss our sweet girl. Thanks for your lovely messages.”

In 2015, the documentary “Amy” won Best Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards. “Back to Black” marks the first fictionalized biopic of Amy’s life after multiple botched projects over the years.

Noomi Rapace and Tania Raymonde were previously attached to star in separate projects about the late singer-songwriter. “Goliath” and “Lost” actress Raymonde told New York Moves magazine in 2018 that portraying Amy was her “ultimate dream role.”

“I’m trying to put together a script and some cool ideas on how to tell her history and approach producers for that. It’s been an ongoing dream of mine,” Raymonde said at the time. “The documentary was wonderful and showed a little bit of her humanity. But I would love to make a movie that finally portrays her as who she was, a real human being, and try to really dig deep down into her relationships and how things went wrong and what made her so troubled. I’m fascinated by her. And the music, my god. Even if I’m in a restaurant and they’re playing her music on the radio, it gives me chills. There’s something about her that was so powerful.”

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