Zendaya recently made history by becoming the youngest winner of the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her performance in HBO’s series Euphoria. Now it sounds like she might be making a run for Oscar gold by playing famed singer Ronnie Spector, first known as Veronica Bennett, the lead singer of the doo-wop girl group The Ronettes, in a biopic about her life in the recording industry and her troubled marriage to record producer Phil Spector.
Deadline has news on A24 lining up Zendaya to star in Be My Baby, a biopic named after the hit 1963 song by The Ronettes, which was also the name of the singer’s memoir that she co-wrote with Vince Waldron. No director is attached to the project yet, but Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury is in early talks to write the script. Ronnie Spector will executive produce along with Jonathan Greenfield, and Zendaya will produce with Marc Platt, Adam Siegel, Mark Itkin, and Tom Shelly.
Spector herself chose Zendaya to play the younger version of herself in the biopic, something that doesn’t typically happen with these kind of proejcts. In her early years, Spector was a big star after The Ronnettes signed with Phil Spector and his Philles Records label, landing them their first big hit with “Be My Baby.” In 1968, she married Spector, but the marriage turned out to be extremely manipulative and abusive
Phil Spector tried to keep Ronnie in their mansion as much as possible, even going so far as to having bars installed on the windows and surrounding the house with barbed wire and guard dogs. He sabotaged her career by forbidding her to perform, and even took away her shoes to keep her from making a getaway. When she was allowed out of the house, she had to drive with a life-size dummy of Spector in the car. But with the help of her mother in 1972, she made a barefoot escape from the house and divorced Spector in 1974, albeit with a terrible settlement that she made out of fear for her life.
Years later, Ronnie and the Ronettes would take Phil Spector to court over unpaid royalties and the rights to her music, and much of their dirty laundry was aired out. Ronnie testified that Phil had frequently pulled a gun on her during their marriage and threatened to kill her unless she surrendered custody of their children. Though she was now safe from these threats, the courts eventually ruled that even though she was entitled to her share of the royalties which she had forfeited in her divorce settlement, The Ronettes were not entitled to the standard 50 percent royalty rate. In the end, the group received $1.5 million from Phil Spector.
Though Ronnie struggled to spark a solo career throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, the year 1986 brought her back into the spotlight when Eddie Money sampled “Be My Baby” in his hit song “Take Me Home Tonight.” Since then, she’s continued to sing, both on solo albums and as guest and backing vocals on several albums, not to mention producing music too. As part of The Ronettes, she was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.
This is a harrowing story, one that will certainly offer up a different kind of music industry biopic than we’re used to seeing. Though Spector did fight her own battle with alcoholism, it’s not the cornerstone of her life story as substance abuse has been with so many famed musicians that have gotten their own biopics. Instead, Ronnie had to overcome her abusive husband and tried desperately to hold on to her passion for music at the same time. This will undoubtedly be a performance to keep an eye on during awards season when the time comes.
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