Biopics of famous musicians don’t always translate to big box office, but the awards committees love them and there aren’t many big names in the business who wouldn’t jump at the chance to personify a musical icon. In the past decade we’ve seen Jamie Foxx and Reese Witherspoon nab Oscars for playing Ray Charles and June Carter Cash (respectively), Joaquin Phoenix get snubbed by the Academy for his fantastic performance as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, and the further likes of Control, Nowhere Boy, Notorious, and Todd Haynes’ impressionistic Bob Dylan film I’m Not There. This August, Get On Up will bring the life story of James Brown to the big screen with Chadwick Boseman in the role, while Andre Benjamin plays the greatest guitar player in the history of rock (in my opinion) in the John Ridley (12 Years a Slave)-directed Jimi: All is by My Side.
The latest legend of music to get the big screen treatment is country great Hank Williams in I Saw the Light, to be directed by Marc Abraham, a well-known producer who made his feature directorial debut with 2008’s Flash of Genius. His credits as producer include Air Force One, The Rundown, Slither, Children of Men, The Last Exorcism and its 2013 sequel, Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake, and the recent Robocop remake.
Cast in the crucial role of Williams – who released such transformative classic songs as “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart” before dying on New Year’s Day 1953 at the young age of 29 from heart failure – is Tom Hiddleston. Abraham will direct the film from his own screenplay which is based on Collin Escott‘s 1994 biography of Williams, and Brett Ratner will serve as a producer on the project.
The production has secured the rights to Williams’ song catalog from Sony ATV and Hiddleston will sing several of the influential musician’s finest tunes on top of his acting duties. Abraham’s film will condense Williams’ entire story into a single narrative, from his rise to fame in the world of country music to his tragic death. Hiddleston will likely join the production after he completes his work on Ben Wheatley’s next film High Rise, adapted from the novel by J.G. Ballard. He can next be seen in Guillermo del Toro’s ghost story Crimson Peak, which is due to be released in October 2015. Plus it’s only a matter of time before Marvel Studios announces the next Thor sequel that will inevitably co-star the actor in his signature role of the prankish Asgardian Loki. In the meantime, Abraham is producing The Man with the Iron Fists: Sting of the Scorpion, a follow-up to RZA’s 2012 martial arts action flick.
Hiddleston is a fantastic actor and has the right look to play the gaunt Hank Williams. He has a mighty theatrical voice, honed by years of top-flight stage performances, which should provide him with more than enough range to properly evoke Williams’ uncanny vocals rather than outright replicate them. If Abraham gives him a solid script and direction to work with, Hiddleston could have a pleasant visit to the Academy Awards in his future.