Look out Jennifer Lawrence, Scarlett Johansson is also developing her own Zelda Fitzgerald biopic. Two of Hollywood’s major young power players have set their sights on bringing the life of the polymath artist and Jazz Age icon to the big screen. And you know what? Good. If it took 70 years after the death of the writer, painter, socialite, and wife/muse of F. Scott Fitzgerald to finally make a movie about her fascinating, extraordinary life, then let’s go ahead and make two.
Unfortunately, Zelda is most famously known as her husband’s great muse, but she was also a gifted novelist and artist in her own right. Feeling obscured by her husband’s legendary literary career, Zelda famously struggled to define herself through her own works throughout the course of their rocky, passionate marriage before ultimately falling to her obsessive nature and descending into madness. Zelda was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1930 and spent the rest of her days in and out of the sanitarium, always in a creative tango with her F. Scott, until she died in the Highland Hospital fire of 1943.
Last week, we learned that Lawrence is developing an adaptation of Nancy Milford’s bestselling novel Zelda with Ron Howard. Today, THR reports that Johansson’s vehicle has joined that project on the fast track. Titled The Beautiful and the Damned after celebrated the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel The Beautiful and Damned — a semi-fictionalized account of his volatile marriage with Zelda, Johansson’s film has backing from Millenium Films with the cooperation of the Fitzgerald estate. The script comes from Hanna Weg (Septembers of Shiraz), and Millenium is still talking to a handful of finalists for the directing gig.
Along with that cooperation comes some newly discovered transcripts from one of the sanitariums where she spent her later years that support the common speculation F. Scott Fitzgerald “misappropriated” Zelda’s ideas and used them as his own. That sort of access to those kinds of primary sources historical documents is a definite leg-up for any biopic.