Disney envisions the project as a theatrical release, hoping to capitalize on the trend of audiences embracing musicals at the box office. In recent years biopics Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody generated big returns and even Oscars; Rhapsody sung its way to $903 million worldwide and made Rami Malek an Academy Award-winning champion. The Greatest Showman, released in 2017 by Fox, was also a surprise success.
This project is being developed not as a biopic but more akin to a something such as Mamma Mia!, which took the songs of pop band ABBA and built a story around them. Mamma Mia! was a West End and Broadway musical before being adapted into a movie in 2008 starring Meryl Streep, Colin Firth and Pierce Brosnan.
The Beatles' catalog was turned into Julie Taymor's 2007 feature Across the Universe, and in 2012 Rock of Ages, an adaptation of a stage musical, took on 1980s power rock and power ballads.
Richie, who already had a number of hits via his funk and soul group The Commodores, was one of the biggest artists of the '80s, with songs ranging from "All Night Long," and "Hello" and "Say You, Say Me" to "Endless Love" and "Dancing on the Ceiling." He has sold more than 90 million records, won four Grammys, and, with Michael Jackson, co-wrote "We Are the World."
Richie is enjoying a late-career resurgence thanks to being one of the judges on American Idol, which after years of airing on Fox moved to Disney-owned ABC.
This article originally appeared in THR.com.