Follows Holiday during her career as she is targeted by the Federal Department of Narcotics with an undercover sting operation led by black Federal Agent Jimmy Fletcher, with whom she had a tumultuous affair.


Lee Daniels


Suzan-Lori Parks (screenplay by), Johann Hari (based on the book "Chasing the Scream" by)
301 ( 12)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 6 wins & 19 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Andra Day ... Billie Holiday
Leslie Jordan ... Reginald Lord Devine
Miss Lawrence ... Miss Freddy
Natasha Lyonne ... Tallulah Bankhead
Trevante Rhodes ... Jimmy Fletcher
Dusan Dukic ... Joe Glaser
Erik LaRay Harvey ... James Monroe
Da'Vine Joy Randolph ... Roslyn
Koumba Ball Koumba Ball ... Lucille
Kate MacLellan ... Working Class Woman
Kwasi Songui ... Working Class Man
Adriane Lenox ... Mrs. Fletcher
Letitia Brookes ... Velva
Tyler James Williams ... Lester Young
Warren 'Slim' Williams Warren 'Slim' Williams ... Bobby Tucker (as Slim Williams)

Andra Day on Becoming Billie Holiday

Academy Award nominee Andra Day reveals how playing Billie Holiday changed her forever. Find out why she initially said no to the role, how the costumes amplified her performance, and why she needed to go grocery shopping in character.

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Follows Holiday during her career as she is targeted by the Federal Department of Narcotics with an undercover sting operation led by black Federal Agent Jimmy Fletcher, with whom she had a tumultuous affair.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Her Voice Would Not Be Silenced


Biography | Drama | Music

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong drug content, sexual content, nudity, language throughout, some lynching images and violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Andra Day becomes the second actress to be nominated at both the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards for portraying Billie Holiday. The first being Diana Ross for Lady Sings the Blues (1972). Coincidentally, the role of Billie Holiday was also the screen debut of both actresses. See more »


At 36:33, an elderly couple of Chinese are speaking standard Mandarin in a restaurant presumably in Harlem. However, Mandarin speakers would have been extremely rare in New York or anywhere else beyond Northern China at that time and for several decades afterwards. Any Chinese in New York and the rest of the States and Europe would have been speaking Cantonese, Hokkien, or some other Southern Chinese dialect, with the exception of the wealthier Shanghainese, who had their own dialect until very recently. See more »


Billie Holiday: [Jimmy steps on Billie's skirt while they are waltzing] Jimmy! Prada! This dress is Prada!
Jimmy Fletcher: Baby, they didn't make Prada back then.
Billie Holiday: Fuck you, n*****!
Jimmy Fletcher: [Billie walks away] Billie!
See more »


Referenced in AniMat's Crazy Cartoon Cast: Oscars Untamed (2021) See more »


The Devil and I (Reprise)
Written by Jamie Hartman, Oak Felder (as Warren Oak Felder), Sebastian Kole (as Coleridge Tillman) and Charlie Wilson
Produced by Oak Felder for Go! Music/The Orphanage
Performed by Charlie Wilson
By courtesy of Warner Records
See more »

User Reviews

Lady Day vs Fake History
5 March 2021 | by ozjosh03See all my reviews

Lady Day deserves much better than this muddled, often tedious and substantially apocryphal "biopic" from Lee Daniels. In this telling of Billie Holiday's life the song Strange Fruit becomes central to the narrative, with government forces determined to stop her singing the mournful lament, afraid that it will ignite a civil rights movement. At one point she's even dragged from the stage after singing just the first few lines. The problem with all of this is it never happened. Federal Narcotics chief Harry Anslinger apparently claimed in letters that he "asked" holiday not to sing the song, but - even if that's true - that's about as far as it went. Holiday was never dragged off stage for singing the song; in fact, she sang the song in the very concert in which the film depicts this as happening. In any case, the civil rights movement was already a growing force long before Strange Fruit became a popular protest song. As for Billie, she was never especially political and was initially ambivalent about performing Strange Fruit. She was convinced more by the way it would be dramatically staged as a final number than by any notions about the political clout of the lyrics. So to make the song central to her life and have Billie so passionate about performing it any cost is in itself dishonest. But then so much of Daniels' film, from the weird Quentin Crisp-like Reginald Lord Divine character who interviews Billie (he never existed) to the romantic affair with FBI agent Jimmy Fletcher, for which there is zero evidence. At best the film offers brief glimpses into the reality of Billie's life, but they're so swamped with apocrypha that you'll have trouble identifying them. Which makes this a pretty messed up biopic, and an extremely half-assed tribute to the great singer. The only saving grace in all of this is Andra Day, who manages to look and sound like Billie for the most part. But even here there are caveats. Day's performances of Holiday's songs are more impressive as vocal impressions than they are for evoking the emotion and pathos that made Billie legendary. And, sad to say, her rendition of Strange Fruit is oddly stilted, almost bland. Not to mention severely truncated. Never mind that this is the song the entire film revolves around. Strange, indeed.

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Official Sites:





English | Italian | German

Release Date:

26 February 2021 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Billie See more »

Filming Locations:

Montreal, Québec, Canada


Box Office

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
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