And we’re on… again!
A project, now at least 6 years in the making, off and on, is now on again, and this time, it looks like a sure thing!
First a quick recap…
Paul Greengrass has long wanted to direct a film based on the life of Jimi Hendrix, which Anthony Mackie has always been attached to star.
In recent years, there’ve been numerous attempts to bring Hendrix’s life-story to the theatrical screen, with such musician/actors as Lenny Kravitz and Outkast’s Andre Benjamin expressing interest in assuming the starring role of the greatest guitarist in the history of rock music (Benjamin’s project would eventually be made, directed by John Ridley, and released last year, to lukewarm reviews, and not much fanfare. It’s now streaming on Netflix, by the way). Even Eddie Murphy and Will Smith, were once on the carousel of actors interested in playing the late musician.
Securing rights to the man’s story has proven to be quite the challenge thanks to Experience Hendrix, the gatekeeper to the musician’s estate, which is run by his stepsister, Janie Hendrix.
It has been a key reason why the Greengrass/Mackie film has yet to be made (the Ridley/Benjamin Hendrix film, as you probably recall, was made without the approval of the Hendrix estate, and thus couldn’t use any of his original music).
The Greengrass/Mackie project was set up at Legendary Pictures, in correlation with Woodstock’s 40th anniversary, where Hendrix’s performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" was a seminal moment of the original 1969 festival. A writer was hired to work on the script, hoping that it would be approved for production by the Hendrix estate, which has been very protective of Jimi’s story – and rightfully so.
As of 2010, it appeared that the project was dead, because Hendrix’s estate gatekeepers refused to authorize the film “out of fear it could hurt the music catalog,” as was reported at the time. Though I’m not sure exactly how.
A quote from the estate: “Legendary proceeded without our permission, direction or involvement. It didn’t ‘fall apart,’ it never was. When we do the Jimi Hendrix feature film bio, we will be involved and in control from the beginning.”
And a response to that from producer Bill Gerber at Legendary read: “To say we proceeded without permission isn’t fair. Thomas Tull [at Legendary] couldn’t have been more generous and eager to collaborate with the estate. He was ready to finance their version of Jimi’s story, he got a script that made The Black List and brought Paul Greengrass to the party. It boggles the mind.”
Skip ahead to today, and it looks like they’ve officially kissed and made up.
Deadline is reporting this afternoon that Legendary Pictures has reached an agreement with the Hendrix estate, finally, and is now going to go ahead with what they hope will be the definitive film on Hendrix’s life. Take that John Ridley and Andre Benjamin! The report also says that it will be a "large-scale" studio picture for Legendary. So it appears Hendrix’s story will be given top-shelf treatment.
Scott Silver ("The Fighter," "8 Mile") has been hired to pen the script, with Greengrass still expected to direct (assuming a deal is worked out).
And with the Hendrix estate in control… uh, I mean, involved, we can expect his original music (not covers of other songs) will be included in the film.
But what about Mackie? He’s no longer attached – at least, there’s no deal in place for him to play the part – so it could very well go to some other actor, especially since they’re essentially starting from scratch.
Mackie is also a higher profile and much busier actor than he was 6 years ago, and likely commands a higher salary, which the studio may not be too excited to pay; of course, I’m only assuming; I’m not privy to any inside info here. But there’s certainly still a chance that Mackie is still very interested; although he’s been more consumed with his Jesse Owens biopic, which he’s called a passion project.
I should note that there was another Jimi Hendrix-related project in the works, first announced in 2009, titled "Slide," which was described as “a fictionalized account of what happened during Hendrix’s ‘lost weekend’.”
The short story goes… in September 1969, Hendrix was the subject of a hoax kidnapping, orchestrated by his manager.
However, in the fictionalized "Slide," the story was to revolve around two gangsters, desperately trying to get away from a mob boss they double-crossed, who inadvertently kidnap Hendrix, then at the height of his career and drug addiction. Along the way, Hendrix ends up teaching one of the gangsters about honesty, and learns to clean up his act.
“Quirky” was the word used to describe it.
Producer Carol Lewis likened the project to Peter Bogdanovich’s "The Cat’s Meow," calling it more of a road movie than a biopic. Apparently, none of Hendrix’s music was to be used (no surprise there), nor would any of his family be featured, and so, obtaining rights from the Hendrix estate wasn’t going to be an issue.
I have no idea what happened to that project…