Alicia Keys To Play Biracial Piano Prodigy In First Movie

Role isn't a stretch for classically trained, biracial piano prodigy.

Some people might wonder what Alicia Keys is doing at the Cannes Film Festival, let alone why she’s hosting a yacht party there. Turns out she’s there on business — according to her publicist, Keys is planning a foray into film.

Keys’ debut is slated to be the lead role in a biopic about biracial piano prodigy Philippa Schuyler, to be co-produced by Halle Berry. “She wanted to go [to Cannes], have her introduction to the film world, and say, ‘I’m here, I want to be part of Hollywood,’ ” Samantha Tillman, Keys’ publicist, said.

Her big-screen debut as Schuyler will be based on the 1995 biography “Composition in Black and White” by Kathryn Talalay, which details how the child prodigy’s musical career was clouded by her racial identity.

Born in 1931 to a black journalist and a white Texan heiress, Schuyler was a pianist at 4 and a composer by 5. She performed at Carnegie Hall when she was 13, leading people to dub her the “little Harlem genius” and compare her to Mozart. But unlike Mozart, Schuyler had mixed heritage, which caused her to be rejected by the classical elite in the United States. She tried to pass for Caucasian but was ultimately forced to find an audience abroad. The role won’t be much of a stretch for Keys, since she, too, is a classically trained pianist of biracial heritage.

Keys made the stop at Cannes on the way to Quincy Jones’ “We are the Future” charity concert in Rome on Sunday, her publicist said (see “Jay-Z, Norah Jones, LL Cool J On For Quincy Jones’ ‘We Are The Future’ “ ). The singer is also doing European promotion for her album to help set up a forthcoming tour. Word of her acting debut comes on the heels of news that she’s making forays into the literary world (see “Is Alicia Keys The Next Nancy Drew? Singer Planning ‘Street Mystery’ Series” ).

Berry, who owns the film rights to Schuyler’s story, will co-produce the still-untitled film with Marc Platt Productions (“Legally Blonde”).

Get all the info you need on the 2004 MTV Movie Awards at MTV.com.