If Mitch Winehouse could spend one more day with Amy

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If Mitch Winehouse could spend one more day with Amy

Cruelly vilified after the singer's death, Amy's father felt emotional watching Black to Black but says the film was not about setting records straight

Mitch Winehouse with daughter Amy and in front of the statue of her in Camden (pic:Adam Soller
Mitch Winehouse with daughter Amy and in front of the statue of her in Camden (pic:Adam Soller

The speculation is over. Back to Black, the Amy Winehouse biopic, is at the cinema. Reams have been written based solely on the trailer and self-appointed Amy ‘experts’ couldn’t wait to give their verdict on Marisa Abela’s performance as the singer and on the way the film presents Amy’s father Mitch.

Many of the opinions on Mitch are based on Asif Kapadia’s 2015 documentary, Amy, and not on the film or knowing the man himself. In the days leading up to the launch of Back to Black, there was a queue of friends, alleged friends and anyone who once stood beside her, wanting to share their Amy anecdotes. Mitch however, said very little.

Back in December 2020, I had walked with him in Camden Town. We had stood in front of the statue of his daughter, laughed about some of her antics in her manor, then sat on a bench close to Amy’s home. That was when Mitch cried. Later he talked about the proposed film which was just a proposal. Now that film has been made, he agreed to talk again.

Were you worried about being portrayed by an actor?

Amy and I always joked that in “our film” I would have George Clooney play me. Of course, this has been falsely used to say that I was disappointed it wasn’t him. I wasn’t as I got Eddie Marsan.

How was that first meeting with Eddie and what did you tell him to help him with playing you?

As soon as we met I knew he would be great for me. And we have become mates. I didn’t tell him how to play me. We just had a few meetings and I told him some Amy stories and then he just did his thing.

Were you familiar with Eddie’s work? 

I’d seen him in lots of films and tv shows. Loved Sixty Six, Ray Donovan, Ridley Road, and that one about the canoe bloke.(The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe ) Brilliant actor.

Eddie Marsan as Mitch with Marisa Abela as Amy at the funeral of grandmother, Mitch’s mum Cynthia

We had talked about the film a while ago, so were you involved in the production?

I wasn’t involved in the production. I went on set once and just got in the way. I didn’t get any scripts and I had no script approval otherwise Sam Taylor Johnson wouldn’t agree to directing the movie.

Did you have concerns about the film being made?

Watching those people working with care and love for Amy, left me feeling very confident about the movie. I hadn’t seen anything until I saw the uncut film. The relationship Amy had with me and the family was spot on. Arguments, laughter, tears. Just like any other family.

Mitch thinks Marisa Abela sings like Amy

The moment the biopic was announced you were approached by actresses who felt they were perfect to play Amy. Did you have much involvement with the casting of Marisa Abela ?

I saw Marisa Abela’s audition on video. I thought it was Amy singing. Marisa was brilliant. Sam and the producers made a great choice.

How much time did you spend with Marisa?

I met her a couple of times just to help her get a deeper understanding of Amy. We got on really well. It felt totally weird but very nice.

Did it make a difference that Marisa is Jewish as Amy was so proud of her heritage?

Amy was fiercely proud of her Jewish heritage. Yes, Marisa is Jewish but it wouldn’t have mattered at all if the actress playing her wasn’t. For instance Lesley Manville who plays my mum superbly is not Jewish and neither is Eddie.

Was it tough when you first saw the film?

It was emotional but I was able to keep it together. When my family saw the film, that was more difficult.

Mitch in Camden Lock with the statue of his late daughter

Do you feel a duty to protect Amy’s legacy?

Amy’s legacy is about far more than her music and this film. Through the Amy Winehouse Foundation we are helping thousands of disadvantaged young people through our schools project. Amy’s Place is a project that bridges the gap between young women leaving addiction treatment services and finding independent accommodation. There is the music therapy for severely disabled kids, and four music projects in the Caribbean and New York.

How did you feel when a Gaza sticker was placed across Amy’s star of David on the statue and how do you think she would have responded to 7 October and the rise of antisemitism? 

The sticker on Amy’s statue was incredibly upsetting. Amy has millions of fans of every race and religion all over the world. Amy always said that love conquers hate. So let’s hope she’s up there weaving her magic.

Eddie has been very supportive and spoke at the antisemitism rally. How does that make you feel?

All Jews are fearful of the rise of antisemitism. Too see Eddie and many others  at the front of the Jewish solidarity march gave us all a lift.

Amy with mother Janice and father Mitch

You went through a nightmare when Amy died. Unbearable loss and then the hurtful accusations. Has making the film been cathartic? 

With the movie I want people to get a glimpse of the real Amy. How she was with her friends and family. I’m not looking to set any records straight.
My family and friends and most of Amy’s fans knew how we all loved and cared for her.

Amy’s tattoo of love for her father

What would you like audiences to take away from Back to Black ?

I want people to see the movie and come out singing her songs. It’s obviously a sad ending but it’s not a sad film.

If you could have 24 hours with Amy, how would you spend the time?

Now you’re making me cry. 24 hours.Well, first I’d introduce her to her nephew, Cosmo my grandson. He is nine and has so many of Amy’s qualities. Then we’d all go to Balaans in Soho and have lunch. Then we’d see Auntie Renee and the rest of the family and we’d hug until it was time for Amy to leave. It would be nice if we could do that every week.
I wouldn’t dare tell her about the movie because she’d say what’s all the fuss about?

Tony Bennett (left) with Amy Winehouse and her father Mitch

Finally, what Amy song is stuck in your head?

She chose Body and Soul to duet with Tony Bennett because it was my favourite song and I’d been singing it to her for 25 years. That was the true beauty and devotion of my daughter.

Amy in the Frame

On the same evening that Mitch Winehouse attended the premiere of Back to Black, he also went to the unveiling of a huge painting of a black distressed vinyl sleeve of the Back to Black album by Morgan Howell @SuperSizeArt .

Since her death in July 2011, Amy’s image has been splashed across walls as graffiti across the globe and on to canvass in artist’s studios. It is her continued popularity in Israel that inspired artist, Dganit Blechner to capture the singer.  “Her tragic story blew me away and when I discovered how much Amy was loved in Israel, I had to paint her,” she explains. And not just once.


Amy by Dganit Blechner

Inspired by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein,  the Tel Aviv-born and based artist typically uses a luminous and cheerful palate to capture her subjects which have included Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Paul Newman.

Amy as an angel by Dganit Blechner

But she changed her colour tune for the Amy portrait that brought an audience of gazers to the window and then inside the Miss D Gallery in. Tel Aviv.  The stand out image in subdued colours portrays Amy as an angel, which is how Dganit sees her.

“Yes the wings are intentional and there to describe Amy’s talent and also her ability to fly on the wings of what she created. She is also of course the angel who departed this world too soon at the age of 27.”

Dganit Blechner is just one of the artists sold at the gallery which opened in 2017 at the Dan Tel-Aviv Hotel to showcase original art by various artists, the majority of which are Israelis, who create Pop- and Fine-Art.

Miss D Gallery http://miss-d-gallery.com

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