Tony-winning Broadway singer-actress Kristin Chenoweth is attached to star as lesbian songstress Dusty Springfield for a Universal Pictures biopic of the British soul singer. Jessica Sharzer will write and direct the movie. Born in London as Mary O'Brien in 1939, Springfield became the finest white soul singer of her era, scoring such hits as "I Only Want to Be With You" and "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself." In 1969, Springfield released what is widely considered her masterpiece, Dusty in Memphis, an album that yielded the classic "Son of a Preacher Man" but was a commercial failure. The singer battled substance abuse and a decline in artistic fortunes that ended only when she dueted with the Pet Shop Boys for 1990's "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" She died in 1999 at age 59 after a long battle with cancer.
The movie will focus primarily on Springfield's life in the '60s, culminating with the making of Dusty in Memphis. Vicki Wickham, Springfield's longtime manager, will be a consultant on the project. Chenoweth won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of Sally Brown in the 1999 revival of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and was nominated for her performance as Glinda in Wicked. On the feature side, she will appear in Bewitched and The Pink Panther this year and has a recurring role on NBC's The West Wing. Sharzer, who won a student Academy Award in 2002, wrote and directed the 2004 feature Speak, starring Kristen Stewart. The Universal-Dusty Springfield deal follows the success of Universal's musical biopic Ray, which earned an Oscar and numerous other awards for star Jamie Foxx. (Borys Kit, via Reuters)