The estate of B.B. King and Wendell Pierce are both is setting the record straight regarding Pierce’s announcement of him playing the legendary blues singer.
According to Variety, the chairman of the estate, Vassal Benford, said that an official biopic about the singer will go into pre-production in 2021. The estate considered Pierce for the role, but they are also considering other actors, including Kenan Thompson. The estate is also looking for a director.
This is different than the project Pierce has actually signed on for. He will portray King in The Thrill Is On, which isn’t a biopic, but a film about the friendship between King and drummer Michael Zanetis.
The estate, via Benford, said it doesn’t disapprove of The Thrill Is On, but believed that Pierce “unintentionally misspoke.” Pierce initially tweeted about playing King Oct. 19, but he has since updated his Twitter account to reflect the Estate’s wish for clarity.
“The Estate of B.B. King has requested I clarify the film ‘The Thrill Is On’ is not a biopic in the traditional sense,” he wrote. “It is a dramatized version of a real-life friendship story in the spirit of the film ‘Round Midnight.'”
The Estate of BB King has requested I clarify the film THE THRILL IS ON is not a biopic in the traditional sense. It is a dramatized version of a real-life friendship story in the spirit of the film ROUND MIDNIGHT. The friendship of 2 musicians, one being the King of the Blues. pic.twitter.com/d5eMQz5m9c
— Wendell Pierce (@WendellPierce) October 22, 2020
Zanetis also told Variety that the film is far from investigating King’s entire career.
“I am not qualified to write a biopic of Mr. King’s life, but this decade of his life is a chapter I lived with him,” he said. “Our friendship flourished until our last visit in 2011.”
The fact that there are two different films in the works about King’s life shows an emerging trend in Hollywood to greenlight multiple projects about the same larger-than-life figure. Recently, Respect, the film starring Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin, was in the news regarding comparisons to National Geographic’s Aretha Franklin miniseries, Genius: Aretha.
There have also been several projects about Mahalia Jackson in the works as early as 2011, with Fantasia Barrino set to star in the 2011 project with Euzhan Palcy as director. Another project about the gospel singer was announced in 2013. More recent Mahalia Jackson biopic news includes Robin Roberts setting up a Mahalia Jackson Lifetime film with Danielle Brooks set to star.
Sammy Davis Jr. has also become the topic of dueling projects. Lee Daniels has been working on a Davis project since 2013, but now that project is on a roll as a miniseries with Tom Hanks as a producer. Other projects steamrolling along include a biopic produced by Lena Waithe and Janet Mock’s film Scandalous!, starring Jeremy Pope. Lionel Richie was also said to be working on a biopic that was backed by the Davis Estate in 2017. Also in 2017, Paramount was set to work on a Davis biopic.
While dueling projects could start to get overwhelming, at least this means that audiences will have a plethora of story angles to choose from when it comes to watching media about their favorites.