Zendaya In Talks to Play Ronnie Spector In Biopic

A24 will adapt Ronnie Spector’s autobiography “Be My Baby” into a feature film about an iconic singer.

Ronnie Spector Zendaya
Photo: A24

Zendaya will play Ronnie Spector in A24’s upcoming adaptation of the iconic rock and roll singer’s 1990 biography Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, And Madness, according to Variety. The 24-year-old Zendaya recently made history as the youngest actress to win an Emmy lead actress in a drama series. She is only the second Black woman to win the award, after Viola Davis for her role on How to Get Away with Murder in 2015. Spector personally chose Zendaya to portray her.

Former Disney Channel star Zendaya won the Emmy for her role as Rue in HBO’s Euphoria, which is produced by A24. The independent entertainment company is teaming with New Regency again. They are also working with them on the Malcolm & Marie film and previously worked together on The Lighthouse, which was directed by Robert Eggers. Zendaya is also one of producers, along with Marc Platt, who is producing live-action adaptations of The Little Mermaid, Dear Evan Hansen, and Wicked. Specter and her husband Jonathan Greenfield are executive producers. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury is in talks to write the screenplay.

Born in Spanish Harlem, Spector formed the girl group The Ronettes with her older sister Estelle Bennett and cousin Nedra Talley and they became an immediate live hit in the New York area in the early 1960s. Colpix Records signed them, but they didn’t get any hits out of them. They signed with Phil Spector’s Philles Records and had a string of hits including “Born to Be Together,” “Is This What I Get for Loving You?,” “Baby, I Love You,” “The Best Part of Breakin’ Up,” and of course, their signature hit, “Be My Baby.” The Ronettes’ last single, “I Can Hear Music,” was released in the fall of 1966 and the group broke up in early 1967. Phil Spector locked their unreleased songs in the vault. The Ronettes sued Phil Spector for nonpayment of royalties in 1988. They won, but it was overturned and after appeals, Phil Spector paid more than $1.5 million to the Ronettes.

Ronnie married Phil Spector in 1968. The creator of the Wall of Sound locked her behind the walls of his mansion, subjecting the singer to years of psychological torment like putting a gold coffin with a glass top in the basement and promising to kill her and display her corpse in it if she left him. He also forbade her to perform, wrecking her post-Ronettes career.

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In February 1971, Spector recorded George Harrison’s song “Try Some, Buy Some,” from his Living in the Material World album, and put it out as a single with “Tandoori Chicken” on the flip side. Spector had planned on recording an album’s worth of Harrison songs. The songs “You” and “When Every Song Is Sung” were recorded, but never released. In 1976, Spector and Southside Johnny sang a duet on Bruce Springsteen’s song “You Mean So Much to Me.” The song closed the Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes’ debut album I Don’t Want to Go Home. In 1986, she was the featured vocalist on Eddie Money’s “Take Me Home Tonight.”

Ronnie recorded her first solo album, Siren, in 1980. In 1999, she released the album, She Talks to Rainbows, produced by Joey Ramone. Spector’s album, Last of the Rock Stars (2006), was released by Bad Girl Sounds. The album featured contributions from Patti Smith, Keith Richards, The Raveonettes and Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.  In 2011, Spector released her version of Amy Winehouse’s 2006 single “Back to Black” as a tribute to the British soul singer. Specter was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Ronettes in 2007.

There is no Be My Baby release date announced yet.