'It Was Important to Hear Them' (Exclusive): Amy Winehouse's 'Deeply Grieving Parents' Met with Back to Black Director

Sam Taylor-Johnson is recounting meeting with Amy Winehouse's parents

Published Time: 16.05.2024 - 17:31:04 Modified Time: 16.05.2024 - 17:31:04

Sam Taylor-Johnson is recounting meeting with Amy Winehouse's parents.

At the New York City premiere of the new Winehouse-centric biopic Back to Black on Tuesday, May 14, Taylor-Johnson, 57, tells PEOPLE that she met with the late singer's parents, Mitch and Janice, "more out of respect" to the her family than out of a necessity to get their approval for the film.

"I was making a movie about their daughter, and I felt like it was important to hear them and hear their stories," the director says. "Some of the things that Janice, her mom, said really helped guide me."

Winehouse's life and death — the singer died of alcohol poisoning in 2011 at age 27 — were previously covered in the Oscar-winning 2015 documentary Amy, which Mitch voiced displeasure with, The Guardian reported at the time.

"The documentary was hugely successful and Asif did a brilliant job, but I felt like when I sat with each of them individually, I was really met with two deeply grieving parents," Taylor-Johnson tells PEOPLE of Winehouse's parents. "So I had to be respectful of that and also to be careful around that in terms of my questioning and sensitive."

"But they were very open about sharing stories. And Janice, I met at home and she would just sit and tell me very gently, would just quietly regale stories — quite often I'd heard them before and a couple of things she told me I'd never heard before, and they definitely feature in the movie," she -

adds. "So it was quite an amazing resource to have."

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Back to Black stars Marisa Abela (Industry) as Winehouse; Jack O'Connell costars in the movie as her ex-husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, with Lesley Manville and Eddie Marsan rounding out the biopic's cast. "Told through Amy’s eyes and inspired by her deeply personal lyrics, the film explores and embraces the many layers of the iconic artist and the tumultuous love story at the center of one of the most legendary albums of all time," reads an official synopsis for the movie.

Back to Black's N.Y.C. premiere came over a month after the movie's world premiere in London on April 8. On the carpet in N.Y.C., Abela, 27, tells PEOPLE that portraying Winehouse required a nuance between "a real intensity" she held opposite "this really, really raw vulnerability."

"When you play someone that is as iconic as Amy, it's important to remember to be from the inside out. What is Amy's perspective on the world, rather than the world's view of Amy Winehouse," she says. "So I think it was really just trying to get inside her. My goal is that people really feel Amy in the room when they come and watch this movie."

Back to Black is in theaters on Friday, May 17.

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