Beyoncé Knowles is on the shortlist to play grizzled protest singer Bob Dylan. The 'Bootlicious' singer is one of several black female stars being considered to play Dylan in a biopic of his life after the director, Todd Haynes, announced he was searching for a woman to do justice to the white Jewish singer's "inner blackness". Seven actors - including the black woman - will portray Dylan during different eras in his 43-year career, starting in the 1960s when his song, 'The Times They Are Changin' became an anti-war anthem. Other female stars in line to play Dylan include tennis champion Venus Williams and TV presenter Oprah Winfrey. Although it is quite common in film biopics for characters to be played by more then one actor, it is extremely rare for them to change sex or race. Haynes, whose previous work has earned him an Oscar nomination, says he wants to hire various actors to take on the role as Dylan was "too complex" to be played by a conventional actor. He added: "I am setting out to explode the idea that anybody can be depicted in a single self." However, producers at Paramount, who will make the film, are not entirely convinced the bold move will pay off.

One said: Dylan has always acknowledged his debt to blues gospel, but critics may say there are other ways of celebrating the African-American musical heritage.

Todd is, however, a serious film maker and we are confident that he will treat it all with respect. We hope."