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January 17, 2023 8:56 am
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First Look Unveiled of Jewish Actress as British Singer Amy Winehouse in New Biopic

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avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Marisa Abela stars as Amy Winehouse in “Back to Black.” Photo: Courtesy of Focus Features

A sneak peak was released on Friday of Jewish actress Marisa Abela in character as the late British songstress Amy Winehouse from an upcoming biopic about the Grammy-winning singer, who had Jewish roots.

The photo from Back to Black, which is also the name of Winehouse’s 2006 album, shows Abela resembling Winehouse by sporting her trademark black beehive hairdo, arm tattoos, the piercing above her lip and gold hoop earrings.

The feature film is being produced by StudioCanal, Focus Features and Monumental Pictures, with Sam Taylor-Johnson (50 Shades of Gray, Nowhere Boy) serving as director and executive producer. It will be about Winehouse’s early life and her road to fame in London, where she lived.

Back to Black “will focus on Amy’s extraordinary genius, creativity and honesty that infused everything she did. A journey that took her from the craziness and color of 90’s Camden High Street to global adoration — and back again,” according to a news release about the biopic. “Back to Black crashes through the looking glass of celebrity to watch this journey from behind the mirror, to see what Amy saw, to feel what she felt.”

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Filming for Back to Black began Monday in London and the biopic, written by Matt Greenhalgh, will include many of Winehouse’s popular songs.

The singer sold more than 30 million records worldwide throughout her career and today her songs amass more than 80 million streams per month. Her 2006 album Back to Black won what was, at the time, a record-breaking five Grammy awards, including record of the year and song of the year for her single Rehab. 

Winehouse, who went to Jewish Sunday school, said in an interview that she attended synagogue once a year on Yom Kippur “out of respect” and sometimes joining her family for the Passover seder, Haaretz reported. She also said that “being Jewish to me is about being together as a real family. It’s not about lighting candles and saying a bracha (blessing).” She died of alcohol poisoning in her home in London in July 2011 at the age of 27.

“Amy Winehouse is the greatest musical talent of the 21st century so far,” said Back to Black producer Alison Owen. “But like so many female icons, the tragedy of her death has seemed to obscure the triumph of her talent…the fun of the aughts, the craziness of Camden, her youth and brilliance – we want to reclaim that for her, with this film.”

Taylor-Johnson said that after he left college, he often spent time in the “creatively diverse” London borough of Camden and also worked in the area. “I can still breathe every market stall, vintage shop and street… A few years later Amy wrote her searingly honest songs whilst living in Camden. Like with me, it became part of her DNA,” he explained. He also said that after he saw her perform for the first time, “it was immediately obvious she wasn’t just ’talent’… she was genius.”

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