Spike Lee to Direct Film of David Byrne’s “American Utopia”

Will it follow in the footsteps of "Stop Making Sense"?

"American Utopia" art
David Byrne's "American Utopia" is being turned into a film by director Spike Lee.
Nonesuch Records
By Tobias Carroll / February 1, 2020 3:48 pm

Since it began its Broadway run last year, David Byrne’s American Utopia has garnered acclaim from music fans and theater buffs alike. What’s the next step for it? Turns out a film version is in the works — directed by someone who’s as iconic in his field as Byrne is in the world of music.

Deadline has the details: acclaimed filmmaker Spike Lee is set to translate Byrne’s acclaimed show for the big screen. This is far from the first foray Lee has made into translating theater into film; the director has also explored the realm of musicals to great acclaim. It’s a fascinating and potentially fantastic pairing of director and musician.

In his review of the show for The New York Times, Ben Brantley wrote that Byrne “emerges as an avuncular, off-center shepherd to flocks of fans still groping to find their way.” And Pitchfork’s Stacey Anderson wrote that “[b]y the time Utopia ends, Byrne has built a place of commonality and solace, where open-hearted possibility bests the precedent of history.”

One notable quote about the forthcoming film came from John Kamen, CEO of RadicalMedia, in which he hearkened back to another acclaimed performance featuring Byrne. “Stop Making Sense is one of the greatest music performance films ever,” Kamen said. “To have the opportunity to revisit the genius of David Byrne with American Utopia and produce a bookend film with Spike Lee and Ellen Kuras is a dream.”

For readers and listeners fond of Byrne’s back catalog, this news also begs the question: might we also see a film adaptation of Byrne’s musical about Imelda Marcos any time soon?

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