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Amy Winehouse movie star only learned to sing after she got role

Marisa Abela will play Amy Winehouse in Back to Black and she did all of her own singing for the movie biopic.

Marisa Abela will lead the cast of the Amy Winehouse movie Back to Black. (PA/Getty)
Marisa Abela will lead the cast of the Amy Winehouse movie Back to Black. (PA/Getty)

Marisa Abela will become a household name this year thanks to her lead role in the Amy Winehouse movie Back to Black, but it took hours of training for her to develop her singing ability.

Back to Black is by far Abela's biggest role since she broke out with her work as Yasmin Kara-Hanani in HBO drama series Industry. She popped up in 2023 mega-hit Barbie as well.

The 27-year-old actor confessed in an interview on Saturday's episode of The Jonathan Ross Show, reported via Daily Mail, that she wasn't even asked about singing in her audition to play Winehouse.

"I knew [director Sam Taylor-Johnson] and I felt the same way that whoever was going to play this part needed to be Amy from the inside out," said Abela.

Amy Winehouse's music will feature heavily in the new biopic Back to Black. (Carl De Souza/AFP/Getty)
Amy Winehouse's music will feature heavily in the new biopic Back to Black. (Carl De Souza/AFP/Getty)

The star added: "When I got the job, I wanted to learn to sing as much as I could because this was her chosen medium — this is her art form, this is how she expressed herself."

Winehouse shot to fame when her 2003 debut album Frank was beloved by critics. Her most famous recording, Back to Black, arrived in 2006 and became one of the best-selling albums in the history of the British music industry.

However, she was just as famous for the tabloid depictions of her battle with addictions to drugs and alcohol. She passed away in 2011 as a result of alcohol poisoning at the age of just 27.

Her life story became the subject of the 2015 documentary Amy by filmmaker Asif Kapadia, which won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. But now, Back to Black will provide a fictionalised take on her life.

Watch: Trailer for Back to Black

Abela admitted it was "nerve-wracking" to step into famous shoes and portray such a complex real person on the big screen, even after hours of vocal training.

This is particularly true of the musical segments, in which it's Abela's voice we hear, as opposed to the composite vocals used in recent biopics like Bohemian Rhapsody and Bob Marley: One Love.

She said: "You have to take that fear and use it as a driving factor in your preparation. I wanted to use that energy that I had. It’s an element of responsibility that you feel. I took that responsibility and I worked pretty hard."

The Jonathan Ross Show airs on Saturday 30 March at 9.35pm on ITV1, while Back to Black will be released in UK cinemas on Friday 12 April.

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