Madonna biopic scrapped after singer’s world tour announcement

A highly anticipated Madonna biopic, directed by the singer herself and starring Ozark actress Julia Garner, has been dropped.

The film, which has been in development with Universal Pictures since 2020 and was dubbed Little Sparrow, was set to chronicle Madonna’s four-decade career in music, cinema and fashion.

According to a Variety report Tuesday, Universal pulled out after Madonna’s announcement last week of a world tour — one that’s spanned her entire catalogue, and dates in New York, Paris and London sold out in minutes.

But unnamed insiders told the Hollywood Reporter that the film’s cancellation was decided late last year, well before the tour was announced.

There was no comment from Universal, nor from representatives from Madonna or Garner.

The biopic had generated much online frenzy due to its grueling casting process, which became known as “Madonna Bootcamp”: 11-hour days of choreography, readings and vocal auditions in front of Madonna and her casting director.

Before Garner landed the role, young stars — including Florence Pugh, euphoria-buster Alexa Demie and pop musicians Bebe Rexha and Sky Ferreira — were considered. Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody was once attached to write the screenplay. Cody and Madonna appeared together on an Instagram Live in late 2020 and engaged in an unconventional live writing session.

Julia Garner at the 2023 Critics' Choice Awards on January 15.Julia Garner was cast in the now-cancelled Madonna biopic. Photo: Presley Ann/Getty Images/SeeHer

A second draft of the screenplay was then completed by Madonna with Erin Cressida Wilson, best known for her screenwriting work on Secretary and The Girl on the Train.

Sources told Variety that even though Universal is pulling out, Madonna is still committed to making the film.

“I want to convey the incredible journey that life has taken me on as an artist, musician, dancer — a human being trying to make her mark in this world,” the singer said in 2020. “There are so many untold and inspiring stories and who better to tell them than me.

“It’s important to share the roller coaster ride of my life with my voice and vision.”

Madonna has two directing credits to her name: the provocative comedy-drama Filth and Wisdom and WE, a time warp romance about King Edward VIII.