Florence Foster Jenkins was the William Hung of the early 1900s. An objectively awful opera singer convinced of her own melodious quality, Jenkins concertized across New York City at her wealthy family”s expense. People couldn”t look away. Staging elaborate shows in opulent costumes, Jenkins sang Vivaldi and Strauss for audiences keeling over from disbelief. Her earnest brand of cacophony became so revered, she was invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in 1944, at the age of 76.
Sound like the makings for a biopic? Well, get ready for Meryl Streep as Florence Foster Jenkins.
Deadline reports that the “Iron Lady” Best Actress-winner will star alongside Hugh Grant in “Florence,” a dramatization of the New York heiress” odd musical career. Though its high art trashiness sounds like the makings of a John Waters film, “Philomena” director Stephen Frears will helm the feature. Nicholas Martin (BBC's “The Indian Doctor”) wrote the script. Michael Kuhn (“The Duchess”, “Being John Malkovich”) and Frears” longtime collaborator Tracey Seaward (“Philomena”, “The Queen”) are producing, ensuring that “Florence” will be the most British New York movie of all time.
Streep will play Jenkins from the early opera days to the Carnegie Hall appearance (and likely her death, which occurred only one month later than the sold out show). Grant will play St. Clair Bayfield, a stage actor who became Jenkins” manager, husband, and protector from ridicule.
Not especially known for her vocal talents, Streep has taken a number of musical projects over the years. Her first full-blown musical, “Mamma Mia!,” was a blockbuster hit. This December, the actress will appear in Disney”s “Into the Woods” as a singing wicked witch. Streep”s currently filming the Diablo Cody-penned “Ricki and the Flash,” a film following an aging rock star reconnecting with her estranged kids, for director Jonathan Demme. Those roles demand actual singing talent. “Florence,” not so much – which may be a task in itself.
How bad are we talking about? Here”s the actual Florence Foster Jenkins performing “Adele's Laughing Song” from sometime around the turn of the century: