‘Back To Black’ Filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson On Why Blake Fielder-Civil Deserves Sympathy In Amy Winehouse Biopic – Crew Call Podcast

The critics have crawled all over Focus Features/StudioCanal’s Amy Winehouse biopic Back to Black like red ants, however, the CinemaScore of B+ (which isn’t far from the Elton John biopic Rocketman at A-) is telling that the fans who showed up weren’t entirely wrought with the film.

For filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson, whose directing career blasted to a whole other state of euphoria with the feature take of bestselling novel Fifty Shades of Grey (near $570M worldwide), her intent was to see Winehouse’s life through the singer’s eyes.

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You can listen to our conversation below:

Singers’ estates can be notorious: If Hollywood tries to make a warts-all movie, well then they’ll just hold the song clearances hostage and bar the film from being made. Back to Black producer Alison Owen already had the songs cleared for the pic from Sony and Columbia, giving Taylor-Johnson the freedom to make the movie she wanted to make.

Still, she the filmmaker chose to meet with Winehouse’s parents, Janice and Mitch “to hear their stories and to let them feel heard as well. I was about to embark on a journey of making a movie about their daughter and it just seemed respectful to sit with them.”

The two takeaways from that convo for Taylor-Johnson came from Janice Winehouse. One was the Grammy winner’s love of a canary which died becoming the inspiration for Winehouse’s ditty “October Song”. But the other was the mother’s divide on Winehouse’s spouse Blake Fielder-Civil played by Jack O’Connell in the film.

Janice told Taylor-Johnson that she was grateful to the man, who the media painted as the culprit for getting Winehouse into hard drugs, for if it wasn’t for him, Winehouse wouldn’t have known the power of true love. “This love was unstoppable and powerful and that became my north star in many ways,” says the filmmaker.

Fielder-Civil canceled on meeting with the director, but did meet with O’Connell who reportedly found him to be a great resource.

But, no, the movie would not paint Fieder-Civil as the bad guy, and the reason for Winehouse’s downfall, no, no, no.

Says Taylor-Johnson, “I had to look at him through her eyes and had to look at the lyrics and the songwriting and everything around (the album) ‘Back to Black’, to look at him with love, because that’s what she felt. My judgement of him or of her father was irrelevant to my storytelling if I’m being true to her perspective.”

Back to Black is currently in theaters in the U.S./Canada. The film has grossed $39.4M at the global box office.

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