Something to look forward to in 2021? Lots of new biopics. 2021 will see several highly anticipated biographic films hit the screen. Among those are Baz Luhrmann’s take on Elvis Presley’s life starring Tom Hanks and Austin Butler, Timothée Chalamet as Bob Dylan and Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin.
Preparing for the starring role in a biopic is notoriously tricky. After all, it is a lot of pressure to do someone’s life and career justice, especially when someone is a beloved historical figure or high-profile celebrity. Daniel Day-Lewis (a notorious method actor) reportedly spent a year reading about and studying Abraham Lincoln before taking on the Oscar-winning role of Lincoln himself in Steven Spielberg’s 2012 biopic Lincoln, per The New York Times. For his role as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, Rami Malek worked with a vocal coach, a piano teacher, a dialect coach, a choreographer and spent hours watching low-quality fan videos of Mercury’s live shows, according to BBC.
Like we said, taking on a biopic role can be a ton of pressure, and it’s pressure Andra Day knows all too well. Day will make her leading lady debut as Billie Holiday in The United States Vs. Billie Holiday, which is set to be released in February 2021. Read on to find out the extreme lengths Day went to in order to nail the role.
Andra Day was very committed to the role
Andra Day knew she would have to make some changes when she took on the role of Billie Holiday in The United States Vs. Billie Holiday. The most significant change came in the form of Day’s massive weight loss. The actress dropped a whopping 39 lbs to get her body to more physically align with that of her character. “I went from 163 pounds to 124 pounds,” she told Variety in January 2021.
Day also took on the more challenging aspects of Holiday’s character, including her turbulent lifestyle and longstanding substance abuse issues. “I put my family through it; I put myself through it,” she explained. “I basically abused my body for a long time.”
Besides thoroughly researching Holiday, Day also began smoking, drinking and talking like the late jazz singer in her day-to-day life. “I would talk like her, and I don’t drink or smoke, but I started smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. Not that I recommend people do this.” Day noted that she felt added pressure to make sure her impersonation of Holiday was perfect. “I just was desperate because this is my first role,” she said, adding, “I just asked God to give me all of the pain and trauma. I asked him to give me her pain and give me her trauma.”
Did it all payoff? As of this writing, it’s unclear. You’ll have to wait until The United States Vs. Billie Holiday lands on Hulu to find out.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse and mental health, please contact SAMHSA’s 24-hour National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
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