EXCLUSIVE: Dee Rees has been set to direct The Kyd’s Exquisite Follies, a musical fantasy that is based on her own original script. Rees’ last film, Mudbound, got four Oscar nominations including one for her script, and her HBO Bessie Smith biopic Bessie got her two Emmy noms for writing and directing, with the film winning Outstanding Television Movie among its four Emmys.
Rees will re-team with Mudbound producer Cassian Elwes, and Santigold is set to compose the music, with Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic creating the film’s visual effects. Endeavor Content is repping the project. Rees most recently wrapped The Last Thing He Wanted for Netflix, with Anne Hathaway and Ben Affleck starring.
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The filmmaker announced herself as a voice to watch with her Sundance debut Pariah, and I watched her wage what was then an uphill battle to get awards season attention for her Netflix film Mudbound, and she was a shot of life in every appearance she made. This seems a logical next step up in ambition, a film of her own construction that combines fantastical worlds and original music. The Kyd’s Exquisite Follies is described as a swirling, futuristic roller coaster journey of a young musician who catapults herself from the anonymity of her hometown of Same Ol’, Same Ol’ to the bright lights and plastic sights of the fabled It City, in search of stardom.
“I was inspired by the AfroPunk and SteamFunk scenes and want to re-imagine the whole Follies genre for today, lift it out of the problematic tropes of the past and invest it with a queer, edgy energy,” Rees said. “My favorite musical as a kid growing up was The Wiz, but ironically I generally hated musicals. Which is why I wanted to take this on and write something original —to try and do something unexpected with the form—make a musical for people who hate musicals. It’s gonna be fun It’s been an absolute dream being in the studio with Santigold. She’s an artist I’ve admired and wanted to work with for a long time— she’s such a creative producer and has a vast range of styles and references. She’s a genius and the music we’re making is exciting as hell. People are gonna be surprised. I can’t wait.”
Said Elwes: “The team we are assembling is a testament to Dee’s genius screenplay that creates a world we’ve never seen before but is truly inspiring. Her creativity has no limit and it’s my privilege to work with her on a movie that destined to be an instant classic.”
Santigold is the singer, songwriter and record producer who has released four albums and contributed to movie soundtracks that include The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Heat, Girls and Paper Towns. She has collaborated with such artists as Jay-Z, Kanye West, Pharrell and Diplo.
“It is such an honor to be working with Dee on this project,” Santigold said. “She has such a fresh and distinct voice and vision, I am continuously blown away by the breadth of her talent. We’ve been having so much fun weaving the soundscape for this beautiful world she’s dreamed up, and are equally keen to leap recklessly between genres, instruments, and vocal styles. It’s a dream collaboration in that sense. Especially because we have a similar approach to our art; we see the whole thing at once. We know that the music is the dance is the costume is the set. Our intrinsic understanding of that fact is our secret handshake.”
Said ILM executive creative director and head Rob Bredlow: “We love to partner with filmmakers who have a distinctive voice and a thoughtful approach to storytelling. I couldn’t be more excited for ILM to help realize the incredibly rich, futuristic world Dee has woven and bring her vision for this unique and important film to the screen.”
Rees is repped by WME.