Yesterday a friend said A Star Is Born would’ve been much more interesting if the genders had been flipped — if the Jackson Maine character had been Sheryl Crowe with a drinking problem and if the ingenue had been some young guy (Shawn Mendes, Jaden Smith…someone in that realm). That way the plotline grooves wouldn’t seem so familiar and the whole vibe and atmosphere would’ve felt fresher and nervier.
I would have been delighted, in fact, if Bradley Cooper had instead directed Elyse Hollander‘s Blonde Ambition, the top-rated Black List script about Madonna‘s struggle to find success as a pop singer in early ’80s Manhattan.
It was reported last summer that Madonna is no fan of the script, and that she doesn’t want the film version to happen. They should make it anyway. If and when Blonde Ambition activates it’ll be a Universal thing. The producers will be RatPac Entertainment, Michael De Luca Productions and Bellevue Productions.
It was almost two years ago when I wrote that Ambition is going to be a good, hard-knocks industry drama — a blend of a scrappy, singing Evita with A Star Is Born mixed in. If the right actress plays Madonna the right way, she might wind up with a Best Actress Oscar nomination…maybe, who knows?
This is a flinty, unsentimental empowerment saga about a tough player who took no prisoners and was always out for #1. No hearts and flowers for this mama-san.
The success of Blonde Ambition will depend, of course, on who directs and how strong the costars are, particularly the guy who plays Madonna’s onetime-boyfriend John “Jellybean” Benitez, whose remix and producing of her self-named first album launched her career, as well as her Emmys bandmate and previous lover Dan Gilroy.
A Star Is Born‘s logline was basically “big star with a drinking problem falls for younger ingenue, she rises as he falls and finally commits suicide, leaving her with a broken heart.” Blonde Ambition is about a hungry, super-driven New York pop singer who, like Evita Peron, climbs to the top by forming alliances with this and that guy who helps her in some crucial way, and then moves on to the next partner or benefactor, but at no point in the journey is she fighting for anything other than her own success, and is no sentimentalist or sweetheart.
Alternate: Our very own hungry, hustling, hard-charging singer, living on tips and dimes in NYC in ’81 and ’82, finally gets a leg-up when she cuts a deal with (and then falls in love with) Jellybean Benitez, who remixes her initially troubled debut album (which contained “Borderline” and “Lucky Star”) and makes it into a hit…but like with a previous boyfriend, bandmate Dan Gilroy, she eventually pushes Jellybean aside in favor of a new producer for her second album, Like A Virgin (’84). So Jellybean is the Vickie Lester of this tale, his heart broken at the end by a woman he loved but who finally loved only herself.