Hulu Acquires Lee Daniels’ The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Lee Daniels attends the 2017 LACMA Art + Film Gala presented by Gucci at LACMA on November 4, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
Lee Daniels attends the 2017 LACMA Art + Film Gala presented by Gucci at LACMA on November 4, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo: Charley Gallay for LACMA (Getty Images)

Hulu is in the final stages in a deal for domestic distribution rights for Lee Daniels’ upcoming Billie Holiday biopic, The United States vs. Billie Holiday, starring “Rise Up” singer Andra Day.


Per Variety, this move comes just in time for Oscar consideration, with other streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime all looking for potential contenders. Since winning the domestic rights in an auction at this year’s Cannes Film, they have since been overseeing reshoots and preparing advertising material despite the sale never officially closing. And because most movie theaters remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the production company ran into challenges figuring out how to distribute the film during this unusual time. The United States vs. Billie Holiday stars Day as Holiday, Moonlight’s Trevante Rhodes, Dolemite is My Name Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and Natasha Lyonne. It tells “the story of how the singer’s career was derailed after she was targeted by the Federal Department of Narcotics. Holiday was the subject of an undercover sting operation led by a federal agent with whom she had a stormy love affair.”

Daniels spoke on bringing Holiday’s story to the masses back in August at this year’s The Root Institute saying:

I was shocked. I thought she was just a drug addict and a singer. I didn’t know that she was a civil rights leader, that’s she’s probably one of our first civil rights leaders. She sang ‘Strange Fruit’ and the government didn’t want her to sing [that song.] Nobody else was singing that song. It’s a fascinating story about a woman who happened to be addicted to and struggled with drugs, but heroes are all kinds. We think that just because you’re a drug addict, you can’t be a hero, too. If I were her, I would’ve tripped too if the government wouldn’t let me sing a song.

The film is directed, co-written, and produced by Daniels. New Slate Ventures, Lee Daniels Entertainment, Roth Kirschenbaum Films with Jordan Fudge, Pamela Oas Williams and Tucker Tooley are also producing alongside him. Hilary Shor, George Parra, Mark Bomback and Dennis Stratton serve as executive producers and BAFTA nominated composer Christopher Gunning has been tapped to create an original score.



Kudos for this project. Lady Sings the Blues is rightfully remembered, but there is room for more filmed stories about these important figures in black history, both the well-known figures and the unknown figures.  I hope the movie finds enduring audiences.