'Fever': Michelle Williams to Play Peggy Lee in Biopic Directed by Todd Haynes

A Peggy Lee biopic has been in the works for years, with Reese Witherspoon once being attached to play the beloved singer/actress. But the project was put on hold after its screenwriter, Nora Ephron, died in 2012, and it’s been idling ever since.

Now the film has new life, because four-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams has come on board to star for director Todd Haynes (Carol), and MGM is in talks to distribute the movie, which is called Fever after Peggy Lee’s famous cover of the Little Willie John song. Witherspoon is still involved in a producing capacity; she’ll executive produce alongside Marc Platt, Pamela Koffler, and Christine Vachon.

But they’re not the only ones interested in bringing this story to the big screen: music superstar and No Time to Die theme song singer Billie Eilish has expressed interest in the movie (she cites Lee as a big inspiration for her own career), and is reportedly in early talks with the filmmakers to executive produce with her mother, Maggie Baird, and Record Label partner Justin Lubliner.

Peggy Lee’s career spanned a staggering seventy years. She was nominated for thirteen Grammys (she won one), and she earned an Oscar nomination for her performance as an alcoholic singer in the 1955 film Pete Kelly’s Blues. But I’m guessing if you’re reading this site, you may know her best as the voice of Peg in Walt Disney Animation’s Lady and the Tramp, the sassy dog who sings the memorable song “He’s a Tramp.” Lee actually played multiple characters in that animated classic, including the human woman Darling and the two Siamese cats (yikes). She also co-wrote all of the original songs for the film, including “He’s a Tramp,” “Bella Notte,” “La La Lu,” “Peace on Earth,” and “The Siamese Cat Song.”

She led a pretty incredible life, being inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, serving as the inspiration for beloved Muppet Miss Piggy, and, if her Wikipedia page is to be believed, even inspiring the very first margarita cocktail. She died at the age of 81 in 2002. Here’s her recording of “Fever,” which will give this film its name:

For Williams, this will be at least the fourth time she will be portraying a real person in a project, following her work as Gwen Verdon in FX’s Fosse/Verdon, playing Charity Barnum in The Greatest Showman, and her performance as Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn. Haynes has been attached to this project since the days when Witherspoon was on board to star, and I look forward to learning more about the scope of this biopic and what his approach to it will be.

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