The 2016 Black List, the annual list of popular unproduced screenplays voted for by Hollywood development executives, was crawling with biopics (two (2!) of which were about Stephen King) but one stood apart: Blond Ambition, by Elyse Hollander. With 48 votes, it was the most popular script on the list, and second place (Life Itself, by This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman, 35 votes) wasn’t close. Now, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the script has landed at Universal.
It’s the first script sale for Hollander, who worked as Alejandro Inarritu’s assistant while he made Birdman. Set in New York in the 1980s, Blond Ambition follows Madonna during the production of her debut album, 1983’s Madonna. Brett Ratner’s RatPac Entertainment, Michael DeLuca’s DeLuca Productions, and Bellvue Productions were attached to the project by the time it landed on the Black List, but now Erik Baiers and Chloe Yellin are coming aboard from Universal.
Universal may seem like a strange home for a Madonna biopic, given that she was on Sire Records, which was already owned by Warner Bros. by the time she got there, but remember: in the years since the release of Madonna, Time Warner sold Warner Music Group to Edgar Bronfman Jr., who sold it to Len Blavatnik’s industrial group Access Industries. Furthermore, in addition to owning Madonna’s back catalog, Access Industries has vast holdings in natural resources and chemicals: LyondellBassell, Clal Industries Ltd., UC RUSAL, and more! So not only will Universal executives not have to deal with Warner Bros. to license the music, they can maybe get Blavatnik to throw in some free Russian aluminum, Israeli cement, or even good, old fashioned American 1,4 butanediol along with the rights to “Lucky Star.” It’s a material world, after all.