The story of Janis Joplin has at once fascinated and confounded Hollywood, in equal measure, for decades. The iconic blues vocalist who burst onto the music scene in the 1960s captured the imagination in such a rare way that many have tried to deliver her biopic – and failed. This could be about to change, however, as it is reported that Michelle Williams is in “early talks” to play the titular lead role in Janis.
Janis Joplin shone very bright, but all too briefly as she forged a music career that resulted in just 4 studio albums, released between 1967 and 1971. She built a stellar reputation as an outstanding, captivating live performer, though, and frequently left audiences stunned from 1962, when she really began singing to entertain, and her premature death in 1970. In that fleeting period, she had been the lead singer of Big Brother And The Holding Company, The Kozmic Blues Band, and Full Tilt Boogie – as well as being an accomplished solo artist. She was 27 years old when she died as the result of a drug overdose.
In 1979, Bette Midler played the lead in the film The Rose which, in its final form, was loosely based on the story of Janis Joplin. Other than that, the singer has been memorialized in the documentary Janis: Little Girl Blue, and the musical play Love, Janis, by Randal Myler. Aside from those projects, director Jean-Marc Vallee has a Janis Joplin film in development, with Amy Adams reportedly interested in the lead role – but the project has become mired in legal wrangling.
Janis, on the other hand, seems to stand a real chance of getting across the finish line. Firstly, it is actually based on the book Love, Janis, which was written by the singer’s sister, Laura Joplin – and this will hopefully reduce the chances of conflict with the Joplin estate. Secondly, it is coming under the stewardship of director Sean Durkin – whose 2011 film Martha Marcy May Marlene earned him a great deal of critical praise. Finally, if Janis lands Michelle Williams as its lead actress, the film is almost guaranteed to be a compelling and moving portrait – a fact that should help it on its journey to the screen. In fact, this might just be one of the most perfect casting choices in recent years. This developing production is definitely one to watch.