Alvin Ailey to Get His Own Biopic from Moonlight Director

Associate Editor
Left: Barry Jenkins accepts Best Director for "If Beale Street Could Talk" onstage during the 2019 Film Independent Spirit Awards. Right: U.S. dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey circa 1965.
Left: Tommaso Boddi via Getty Images; Right: Keystone via Getty Images

Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk director Barry Jenkins is set to helm the biopic of legendary dancer and Black gay man living with HIV Alvin Ailey. Deadline reports that Jenkins will direct the film about one of the 20th century’s most influential choreographers for Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Jenkins won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay for Moonlight and was nominated again for Beale Street's script; but Julian Breece, who co-wrote Ava DuVernay's Netflix drama When They See Us, will write the script for the film.

Born in Texas in 1931, Ailey established the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1958 as a testament to the Black American cultural experience. Ailey was honored by the Kennedy Center in 1988 for his contributions to the arts; he died a year later, on Dec. 1, 1989, of AIDS-related complications.

"His story gives people hope. It gives people perspective, not just on dance: It really touches your own life where you're looking at yourself [and] who you are as a human being," Troy Powell, artistic director of Ailey II (formerly the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble), told Out in an interview earlier in 2019. "His legacy is so profound."

Judith Jamison and Robert Battle, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's acclaimed former and current artistic directors, will work in collaboration with the producers of the film. There are no details yet on when it will be released or who is set to star. However, with Jenkins in the driver's seat, we can expect a more thoughtful entry in the canon of films about celebrities living with HIV than we got with Bohemian Rhapsody, which notoriously flubbed the details of Freddie Mercury's diagnosis.