Dusty Springfield is about to get the big screen treatment.
Let’s face it, half the fun of a biopic is seeing actors do their best imitation of other very famous people. If the performance is good, it can become an iconic role; see Jim Carrey becoming Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon or Angela Bassett morphing into Tina Turner for What’s Love Got To Do With It.
Now Gemma Arterton has been announced as the latest hopeful to attempt to embody the spirit of a long-lost legend. The star will be donning the beehive of British soul singer Dusty Springfield in new film So Much Love, written and directed by Phyllis Nagy (who received a 2015 Oscar-nomination for adapting Carol) in her directorial debut.
“I have been an admirer of Dusty Springfield since I was a teenager,” commented Arterton on the news. “Her effortless husky voice, the way she conveyed emotion through music, how she helped bring Motown to the UK […] She was generous, witty, mercurial, shy, extrovert and a true English eccentric. I simply cannot wait to play her.”
The narrative will focus on a pivotal time in Springfield’s career – the 1968 recording of her magnum opus, Dusty in Memphis, which gave birth to top 10 hit Son of a Preacher Man which had been passed onto Springfield by fellow artist Aretha Franklin.
Springfield was one of Britain’s greatest exports during the latter 20th century; a performer who built transatlantic relationships with leading Motown artists and songwriters such as Carole King, and introduced acts like Stevie Wonder and The Temptations to a UK audience for the first time.
Her personal life was also a source of great interest to the general public; she reportedly suffered from substance abuse and was known to order bags of crockery for the sole purpose of smashing into a wall. Her sexual orientation garnered equal attention; for years Springfield was rumoured to be gay, and in 1970, she openly announced her equal attraction to men and women in an interview with the Evening Standard – an act unheard of for female singers at the time.
Peers said though that her fierce independence and desire to define her own life led to severe frustration with the stringent restrictions placed upon women at the time, even ones as famous as she. Towards the end of the century, Springfield’s career began to wane. Despite a brief revival of her previous renown when she collaborated with the Pet Shop Boys in 1987, it never again reached the heights of the earlier years. Her premature death at 59 in March 1999 came just two weeks before her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“Dusty Springfield has long been a hero of mine,” said Nagy on her decision to take on the queer icon’s story. “[She was] an innovative, brilliant artist and a complex, contradictory woman. I can’t wait to bring her to life on screen.”