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Alleged clause in Fred Astaire’s will may prevent Tom Holland biopic

An alleged clause in Fred Astaire's will, which stated that he did not want to be depicted onscreen, may curtail the planned biopic starring Tom Holland

There has been a mixed reaction to the news that Tom Holland is going to be swapping his spandex for a top hat, white tie and tails in a new Fred Astaire biopic. While long-time Tom Holland fans are celebrating the fact that he finally gets to use his dancing skills in a movie, classic Hollywood connoisseurs have been more muted.

This is at least partly because of a longstanding rumour that Fred Astaire has a stipulation in his will that he is not to be depicted onscreen. It seems likely that this is true, as Astaire has never been portrayed onscreen by an actor and there have never been biopics made about either Astaire or his dance partner Ginger Rogers.

The only incident that has come close was in 1997, when digital technology was used to make it look like Astaire was dancing with a vacuum cleaner in a heavily-criticised advert. His widow, Robin, granted permission for the rights, but Astaire’s daughter from a previous marriage was reportedly left “saddened” at her father’s wishes being disrespected.

The biopic has not yet been confirmed by either producer Amy Pascal or Sony, and as usual, it looks like a case of the notoriously loose-lipped Holland letting the cat out of the bag before he was supposed to.

On a red carpet while promoting Spider-Man: No Way Home, Holland said; “Oh, I am playing Fred Astaire. The script came in a week ago; I haven’t read it yet. They haven’t given it to me. I know Amy Pascal has the script. She Facetimed me earlier when I was in the bath, and we had a lovely Facetime. But I will be playing Fred Astaire.”

Astaire is reported to have said; “However much they offer me – and offers come in all the time – I shall not sell (my image or life story).”

And speaking of the clause in his will, Astaire is reported to have said; “It is there because I have no particular desire to have my life misinterpreted, which it would be.”

Tom Holland’s breakthrough acting role was in the stage musical Billy Elliott and every few months, the video clip of him dancing to a mash up of Gene Kelly’s Singin’ in the Rain and Rihanna’s Umbrella on Lip Sync Battle in 2017 does the rounds – usually with cries of “cast Holland in a musical, already!”

So, if the Astaire biopic does go ahead, it looks like it will prove controversial. In the meantime, we have Holland swinging into cinemas on December 15 in Spider-Man: No Way Home.