B.B. King Biopic, Long Dormant, Moves Ahead With 'Treme' Star Wendell Pierce10/20/2020
Actor Wendell Pierce — best known for his work on The Wire and Treme — announced that a long-dormant biopic on blues legend B.B. King, The Thrill Is On, is back on in a series of tweets posted Monday night.
“We are official,” Pierce wrote. “Preparation has begun on a film where I will be honored to play the great, BB King. Humbled.” He added, “I promised BB King before he died, I will honor him and his creative genius. An American Icon.”
The project was first announced in 2011, when it was going by the title B.B. King and I. The film is centered around the relationship between King and his friend Michael Zanetis, a musician-turned-entrepreneur and club owner, who helped the blues legend get his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Pierce was always set to play King, while at the time, Patrick Fugit was cast as Zanetis and Michael Schroeder was attached to direct.
In 2012, however, the project hit a roadblock when King Size Film Productions sued King. King had allegedly sent a cease and desist order to the filmmakers, claiming the movie and its website violated his trademarks and publicity rights; King Size Film Productions filed a lawsuit in turn, claiming King’s demands resulted in production delays and damaged efforts to obtain further funding.
While the case was ultimately dismissed a few months after it was filed, production on the film appeared to go dark. In 2015, King died at the age of 89.
The revived project Pierce announced on social media appears to be the same one from 2011, with Zanetis producing the movie and co-writing the script with Melora Donoghue (it’s unclear, however, if Fugit and Schroeder are still attached).
“We’re proud to have an actor of Wendell’s caliber attached to portray this beloved icon,” Zanetis said in a statement. “His dedication to his craft and love of music will combine in what I believe will be a career defining performance.”
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