Sam Taylor-Johnson denies new Amy Winehouse biopic is “exploitative”

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Sam Taylor-Johnson, director of the new Amy Winehouse biopic, Back To Black, has defended the movie and denied claims it’s “exploitative” of the late star.

Winehouse, who passed away in 2009 aged 27, was previously the focus of Asif Kapadia’s documentary, Amy, released in 2015. Now, Taylor-Johnson’s upcoming film is set to put the iconic singer-songwriter back into the spotlight, and revisit her tragic story.

When images first emerged of Marisa Abela in the lead role, Back to Black was heavily scrutinised online and as more clips have been released from the film, it has continued to be criticised despite not yet being released for the general public.

Now, in a new interview with The Times, Taylor-Johnson has addressed the speculation surrounding whether Back to Black is a piece of exploitative cinema, strenuously denying the claims.

“No I don’t think so in any way,” the director stated. “Noise will always be big about something like this, but nobody has really seen it yet and we’ve made it through Amy’s words, music, her perspective. Anything else would, yes, have been exploitative, but this retelling lacks tragic hindsight.”

She added: “It is not an investigative piece — it joyfully honours Amy.”

Additionally, Taylor-Johnson explained how Back to Black differentiates from Kapadia’s depiction of Winehouse, especially the portrayal of Winehouse’s father, Mitch: “People still have all their judgments, because it’s been very laid out. But this is a totally different perspective of Mitch as a parent, through Amy’s eyes. It’s, ‘For right or wrong, all the choices he makes, that’s just my dad.’”

Furthermore, Taylor-Johnson recalled meeting Mitch as well as Winehouse’s mother, Janis, who she says were both “absolutely crippled with grief still, sadness and regret. There are just so many complex feelings.”

Meanwhile, Abela, who undertook a drastic transformation to portray Winehouse and lost a significant amount of weight for the role, explained in the same interview that she has often considered what the late singer would think of the film. She remarked: “Because I know how outspoken she would have been. And you know, I hope that, if there was a world in which Amy could see this, that she would feel proud of herself.”

While Taylor-Johnson revealed Mitch is shown in a more positive light in Back to Black than in Amy, she previously confirmed that Winehouse’s parents had no creative control over the film.

The filmmaker maintained in January: “It was important to meet with them out of respect. But they have no involvement in terms of… like, they couldn’t change things. They couldn’t dictate how I was to shoot. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have done it.”

Watch the trailer for Back to Black below. The film is set for release on April 12th.

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