The film takes place in winter 1968, six months before Garland’s untimely death; the singer and actress arrives in London to perform a five-week sold-out run at famed nightclub The Talk of the Town. In 2012, a Broadway play titled End of the Rainbow, starring British actress Tracie Bennett as Garland, covered similar territory and attempted to tap into the Garland worship that still persists among many gay men. Judy Davis also played the star in the 2001 telefilm, Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows, and it also tapped into many of the campy elements of her diva tantrums.
This film — which will feature a version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” — delves into Garland’s behind-the-scenes battles with management, her relationships with musicians and fans, and the unfolding family drama that provided the backdrop to these London performances. Garland died in London in June 1969 and her funeral on June 27, 1969 is often cited as a connection to what sparked the Stonewall Riots in New York City 50 years ago.
“I had always wanted to make a film that explores great performance and its cost,” said director Rupert Goold in a press statement. “The most fertile ground for such exploration seemed to be at the end of a lifetime of performance. For over 40 years Judy Garland had laughed and loved and entertained no matter what life threw at her, and her public adored her for it. But she paid a price in a childhood lost to Hollywood, an emotional exhaustion and a yearning for a ‘normal’ life beyond the rainbow. It is a powerful and moving story that I hope will inspire new audiences to discover Judy Garland’s joyous legacy.”
The cast includes Jessie Buckley (War and Peace), Finn Wittrock (American Horror Story) and Michael Gambon (Harry Potter).
Judy is in theaters September 27th.