Pablo Larraín has a type. After bringing to life Mrs. Kennedy’s response to JFK’s assassination in 2016’s Jackie and dressing Kristen Stewart in vintage Chanel as Diana, Princess of Wales for 2021’s Spencer, the Chilean auteur has tapped Angelina Jolie to play “La Divina,” Maria Callas, in a forthcoming biopic.
Referred to as “the Bible of opera” by Leonard Bernstein, the Greek-American Callas is perhaps the most famous opera singer of the 20th century, ushering in a revival of Bellini and Rossini with her performances at La Scala (although it’s her performances of Tosca at Covent Garden that are frequently described as some of the greatest of all time). Her talents, however, were frequently overshadowed by the drama in her personal life. As Callas herself once said, “Wherever I am, it is hectic.”
Perhaps most famously—after a difficult childhood and tumultuous first marriage to business tycoon Giovanni Battista Meneghini, whom she accused of stealing from her—Callas began a decades-long relationship with the shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, who would go on to leave her for Jackie Kennedy. Beyond being estranged from her family (she once declared that her mother would have to throw herself off a roof before she would give her any cash), the soprano had a long-running feud with her rival at La Scala, Renata Tebaldi; to compare their voices, she once told the press, would be like comparing Champagne with Coca-Cola.
As is Larraín’s wont, the film will home in on a specific period in Callas’s life: her final days in Paris in the 1970s, before her death of a heart attack at the age of 53. Steven Knight—who wrote the screenplay for Spencer—will be penning the script, although it’s yet to be confirmed whether Jolie will actually sing in the biopic. It seems she’s up for the challenge, though. “I take very seriously the responsibility to Maria’s life and legacy,” the actor said in a statement. “I will give all I can to meet the challenge. Pablo Larraín is a director I have long admired.” As for Larraín? “Having the chance to combine my two most deep and personal passions, cinema and opera, has been a long-awaited dream,” he said.