For almost three years, development on a Madonna biopic has been progressing at Universal, with the woman herself commanding the director’s chair. While it may not have been a prospect to join the 2023 new movie releases, the work being done to bring her story to the screen was intense and included hours-long choreography sessions for those hoping to take part in the near future.
It sounds like all that work was for naught though, as the picture that was positioned to star Ozark’s Julia Garner has been hung up. The timing may be suspect to some, as the pop legend had recently announced a world tour playing her greatest hits. THR’s reporting has seemingly debunked any theories that this tour was the reason for cancelling what would have been a Madonna-directed project.
Apparently the writing’s been on the wall for this movie since late last year, with the project being allowed to attract other suitors through the turnaround process. As the source report goes on, other potential difficulties had beset telling the Madonna story on the big screen.
Intending to span the entire history of her career in one film, the biopic was being discussed as a potential two-film event, or even a miniseries. According to the sources cited, the scripts for the film came in at a minimum of 180 pages, which was still pushing it when it came to the material that was set to be covered.
The timing of the breakdown for this project couldn’t have come at a worse time. After the recent announcement of 2023’s Oscar nominations, the good fortunes that have smiled on Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis could have been seen as a sign to proceed with this very project. On the other side of the coin, with the level of control Madonna would want to have over her own biopic, who knows how much longer the movie would have hung in development hell while working towards a compromise.
Admittedly, doing a cradle-to-grave retelling of any artist’s life is a daunting task. Swings and misses have come and gone on the Hollywood circuit, and for every Bohemian Rhapsody-style success there are other not so lucky films, like I Wanna Dance With Somebody, that fail to make a spark. Even if Madonna was a fan of the work that would have come out of her version of her life’s work, that’s not to say the world would have agreed.
As it stands, the Madonna movie is frozen. Gone like a ray of light, this breathless would-be blockbuster has taken a bow. Maybe we’ll see someone try their hand at chronicling her life again in the future, but for now, what could have been is nothing more than a beautiful stranger. If you want to see last year’s Elvis biopic, if only to imagine what a Madonna-flavored variant of that project would look like, you can take it all in through an HBO Max subscription.