Rapper, actress, and talk show host, Queen Latifah will star in and executive produce a Bessie Smith biopic for the premium cable network, HBO reports The Hollywood Reporter.
The telepic, Blue Goose Hollow, named for the area in Tennessee where Smith was born and raised revolves around iconic blues singer Smith as she overcomes the challenges of her tempestuous personal life to become one of the most acclaimed performers and recording artists of the 1920s and ’30s, to be known forevermore as the “Empress of the Blues.” The film is based on Smith’s life story and Bessie, author Chris Albertson’s biography of the iconic singer.
According to American Blues Scene Magazine, while Bessie Smith was still a teenager, “she began singing professionally in a minstrel show in the early 20th century with then-unknown Ma Rainey.” “Smith’s popularity as a singer then soared, especially after she signed with Columbia Records in 1923, she became the highest paid African-American of the era, often riding in her own train car.” “She appeared singing on film in 1929′s St. Louis Blues, and sang duets with Louis Armstrong that continues to be critically acclaimed. Tragically, Smith died at 43 years old in Clarksdale, Mississippi after a car accident on Highway 61.”
American Blues Scene Magazine also noted, “in 1994, Smith was honored with a U.S. postage stamp,” “in 1989, Smith was posthumously given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award,” and in 1980 Smith was then was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. However, “this is the first time that Smith’s life will be portrayed in film.”
For Latifah, the Bessie Smith project marks her latest small-screen endeavor. Latifah, who recently starred in Lifetime’s Steel Magnolias reboot will executive produce the HBO Films and Zanuck Co. movie via her Flavor Unit Entertainment banner, which recently struck an overall deal with BET and Centric to revive VH1’s scripted series Single Ladies. The banner also exec produces Latifah’s syndicated daytime talk show The Queen Latifah Show, which recently was renewed for a second season on CBS Stations.
Pariah‘s Dee Rees, who earned an Indie Spirit Award for her work on Pariah, which was also nominated for the Grand Jury Prize and won the cinematography award at the Sundance Film Festival will pen the script and direct the movie. Lili Fini Zanuck, Richard Zanuck, Shakim Compere, Shelby Stone, and Randi Michel will exec produce. Hallie Foote is on board to co-exec produce and Ron Schmidt will produce.
Production has reportedly been slated for June 2014.