Andra Day is singing jazz and feeling the blues in the first trailer for “The United States vs. Billie Holiday.” In the clip, it seems the whole world is against Holiday, with the government trying to prevent her from performing her iconic song “Strange Fruit.” But as she vehemently declares, she’ll sing “what the f— I want.”
Lee Daniels’ biopic on Holiday charts the tumultuous legal battle in which she became the target of an undercover narcotics sting operation led by Jimmy Fletcher, the man with whom she had an affair. “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” named after the 1947 court case against her, is inspired by the singer’s life story and her struggles with addiction, fame and heartbreak.
Though it was originally meant to be a theatrical release from Paramount, Hulu has officially acquired the U.S. rights to the film. The first trailer dropped on Monday ahead of the film’s release on Feb. 26.
Day is making her feature film acting debut in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” and Daniels’ film also stars Natasha Lyonne, Garrett Hedlund, Trevante Rhodes and Da’Vine Joy Randolph.
Pulitzer Prize winner Suzan-Lori Parks (“Native Son”) wrote the film based on the 2015 book “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs” written by Johann Hari. The book is a non-fiction examination of the history and impact of drug criminalization during the period known as The War on Drugs.
“Whether you are new to the story and legacy of Billie Holiday or know every note she ever sang, I do hope our celebration of this complex woman does justice to a great musical legend and civil rights activist whose artistry resonates as well today, as it did 80 years ago,” Daniels said in a statement. “Hulu releasing this film and giving it a platform to be seen nationwide is a blessing, because as recent events reveal, our country has much work to do in fulfilling its promise of a more perfect union.”
New Slate Ventures, Lee Daniels Entertainment, Roth Kirschenbaum Films are producing with Daniels, Jordan Fudge, Pamela Oas Williams, Tucker Tooley, Joe Roth and Jeff Kirschenbaum. The executive producers include Hilary Shor, Jeremy Allen, Patty Long, Johann Hari, Cassian Elwes, Mark Bomback and Dennis Stratton.
“The United States vs. Billie Holiday” figures to be a major Oscar player when it opens on Feb. 26. Check out the new trailer above.