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Oscar-nominated team behind Amy Winehouse biopic Back to Black tease film: 'Marisa Abela is phenomenal'

Marisa Abela portrays Amy Winehouse in the upcoming biopic, Back to Black (PA)
Marisa Abela portrays Amy Winehouse in the upcoming biopic, Back to Black (PA)

The Oscar-nominated team behind Back to Black have applauded Marisa Abela’s portrayal of Amy Winehouse in the highly anticipated musical biopic.

Katie Spencer and Sarah Greenwood, the acclaimed production designers who helped bring Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie’s Barbie to life, recently wrapped filming on the British film.

Throughout its production, the film, which is directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, has faced backlash, with many accusing it of "exploiting the singer's legacy" and "capitalising off her trauma".

Despite the backlash, they poured praise on “phenomenal” Abela and insisted that there’s “joy” to the story, despite Winehouse’s well-publicised addiction battles prior to her death in 2011 aged 27 of alcohol poisoning.

Attending the London’s Critic’s Circle Awards at The Mayfair Hotel, Greenwood told the Standard: “Marisa Abela, who plays Amy [Winehouse], she is phenomenal.

“She's absolutely stunning, and she sings beautifully. And it's a love story, you know, and there's joy to it even though it is a very sad story. There is joy to it. It will bring joy, I think.”

Katie Spencer (L) and Sarah Greenwood (R) pictured at the 44th London Critic's Circle Awards (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
Katie Spencer (L) and Sarah Greenwood (R) pictured at the 44th London Critic's Circle Awards (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

Katie Spencer added: “Everybody's a fan of Amy Winehouse, but I learned so much about her in researching her. I mean, the genius that writes those songs, and you listen to those songs.

“There was more to her than just the tortured soul that she was at times.”

Recalling some standout moments from filming, Spencer revealed how they recreated Winehouse’s stage design, right down to the same drapes the singer used, which they said was the perfect “homage” to the Grammy winner.

Spencer said: “We create a couple of the iconic moments, and she had her stage set and we actually managed to find, I mean, this is a small thing, but it was her actual draper stage set that is all in the background that she had.

“And so, then when you see Marissa [Abela] and then Amy’s backing band came to watch it, her original backing band.

“It was great. It was a real homage which is fantastic,” Greenwood concluded.

The production team, who are up for their seventh Academy Award next month, also weighed in on Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie’s Oscars snub for Best Director and Best Actress in a Leading Role.

The pair poured praise on Barbie's director Greta Gerwig and star Margot Robbie (Getty Images  for Critics Choice)
The pair poured praise on Barbie's director Greta Gerwig and star Margot Robbie (Getty Images for Critics Choice)

The pair insisted that the success of the blockbuster, which made $1.45billion at the box office, will forever be remembered for how it made audiences feel, not the award categories it should have been nominated in.

“We all know where the genesis of it was actually with Margot [Robbie], then Greta Gerwig, then the down to all of us,” Greenwood said. “So, in our eyes, they are goddesses.

“And the whole thing about it is, we know their due and it's the fact that this is an amazing film that's out there that has made this amazing amount of money and brought so much joy to people.

“That's good. That's the thing that is the tribute really.”

Spencer added: “And you know, if a film gets nominated for Best Film, that's an awful lot down to the director.

“And when the director is also the writer, and then the star is the producer who employed the director who was the writer, then you think, well, everybody knows how brilliant they are.”