Giles Martin defends decision to have Marisa Abela singing as Amy Winehouse in Back to Black

Virgin Radio

9 Apr 2024, 10:05

Giles Martin, Marisa Abela as Amy Winehouse in Back to Black

Credit: Getty / Studio Canal

Giles Martin has weighed in on the debate around Marisa Abela lending her voice to portray Amy Winehouse in new biopic Back to Black. 

Audiences were left divided after the first footage of the movie showcased Marisa’s vocal talents as the late singer, with the decision to replicate and not use Amy’s original voice coming down to director Sam Taylor-Johnson and the music production team. 

Back to Black follows Amy’s life from her early days playing in pubs to being on the global stage accepting five Grammy Awards. Abela explores her story through a number of Amy’s hits, including Rehab and Tears Dry On Their Own. 

Giles, the son of Beatles producer George Martin, was music producer on Back to Black, and addressed the criticism around choosing Marisa’s voice over Amy’s in the final edit. 

“The challenge was acceptance,” Giles exclusively told “I remember really early on, I think Marisa is fantastic. I'm really proud of the way we did it. I think people always go, ‘it's not Amy Winehouse singing?’ I go, ‘well it isn't Amy Winehouse singing!’

On the difficulties of bringing Amy’s real voice to the big screen, the producer added: “If I use Amy Winehouse's voice, which I can't do because she's singing at The Dublin Castle or she's singing at home, that's authentic and people can hear Amy Winehouse.”

Continuing to defend Marisa’s vocal contributions, Giles continued: “I think she gets the emotion across and that's the challenge, in getting the emotion across, the frailty. I think it's a celebration of Amy and I think Marisa's done a phenomenal job of that.”

It turns out that another musical legend helped Giles score his gig on Back to Black, with Elton John connecting him with director Sam. 

As explained by Giles, his involvement began when he was working on Elton John biopic Rocketman: “I was a music guy on Rocketman and trained Taron [Egerton] to be Elton, and Elton's really good friends with Sam Taylor-Johnson and he said, 'you should speak to Giles.’” 

Giles continued: “And so Sam contacted me. I was actually in America and she sent me the script. I loved the script. It was honest. And then I flew over, I watched the audition tapes, I saw Marisa and then we started working at RAK Studios, was our first day, the summer of the year before last, and started just going through stuff and work on nuances. She's just got great timing as a singer.

“And then overseeing all the music and performance for the film. So, lots of performance in the film and trying to make it authentic, or being authentic really. I've been around for a long time.”

Back to Black will be released in UK cinemas on 12th April 2024.