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Meryl Streep to play wannabe opera diva in Stephen Frears' 'Florence'

Meryl Streep to play wannabe opera diva in Stephen Frears' 'Florence'
Meryl Streep will star in the biopic "Florence." (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Meryl Streep is set to play the aspiring opera singer Florence Foster Jenkins in the upcoming biopic "Florence," but she'll want to avoid tuning up much: Jenkins was a famously awful vocalist.

Such is the off-key premise for the movie, which will co-star Hugh Grant and be directed by "Philomena" helmer Stephen Frears, the European film company Pathe has confirmed. The film is currently in preproduction.

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Written by Nicholas Martin, "Florence" is based on the true story of Jenkins, a New York heiress and socialite who obsessively pursued her dreams of opera greatness but was the only person who didn't realize she had a dreadful voice.

Grant is to play her partner and manager, the aristocratic actor St. Clair Bayfield, who was determined to protect Jenkins from the truth. He faced a considerable challenge, though, when she decided to give a public concert at Carnegie Hall in 1944.

"Florence" will find Streep on familiar ground, as she's been involved in a number of biopics and musical films in recent years. The first category includes "The Iron Lady," "Julie & Julia" and the upcoming "Pankhurst," and the second includes "Mamma Mia" as well as the upcoming "Into the Woods" and "Ricki and the Flash." Streep is even lined up to play another opera singer -- this time a good one, Maria Callas -- in an HBO movie.

Frears meanwhile is coming off the success of "Philomena," a critical favorite that crossed the $100-million mark at the worldwide box office and earned four Academy Award nominations. Prior to that, he'd been in something of a lull after 2006's "The Queen." His next film to hit theaters will be a yet-untitled Lance Armstrong biopic.

Grant hasn't had a major hit since his "Bridget Jones" and "Love Actually" days. Along with "Florence," he'll also appear in Guy Ritchie's "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." movie, set for release Aug. 14.

Follow @ogettell on Twitter for movie news.

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