When Wendell Pierce was cast as a journeyman jazz musician in Treme, he immediately started taking trombone lessons. As Pierce told The Grio, “I didn’t want to look like an actor who knows absolutely nothing about music.” I’ll be Pierce is thumbing through his phone book for a guitar teacher as we speak, because the actor has just signed on to play B.B. King in the biopic B.B. King and I. Michael Zanetis co-wrote the screenplay based on his experience as a drummer who travels from the Heartland to Hollywood to pursue his musical dreams. Zanetis met King at a 1980 concert and struck up a lifelong friendship. Patrick Fugit (Cirque du Freak) will play the fictional Zanetis. Michael Schroder (Man in the Chair) is on board to direct.
King Size Film has scheduled the independent production to begin September 1 with a Spring 2012 release in mind. More after the jump:
Zanetis, who will also produce B.B. King and I, gushed to Variety:
“We are thrilled that Wendell has come aboard. We’re fortunate to have an actor of his caliber and reputation for dedication to his craft, portraying one of America’s most beloved icons. This year marks the 21st Anniversary of Mr. King receiving his Star and his 86th birthday, so we feel the time is right to bring our tribute to him to the big screen.”
The big 21/86?! It is time.
You can’t watch five seasons of The Wire then 1+ seasons of Treme and not fall in love with Pierce. I wish I were more familiar with King’s work, but I’ll settle for Pierce as a more remote grizzled blues/jazz legend any day. I suppose, based on the origins, this is more Zanetis’ story — Fugit is a fine, wholesome choice for the audience stand-in.
Pierce will next be seen on the big screen in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part I when it opens November 18. (Yeah, Breaking Dawn is going to be the best thing in the series.) Fugit recently reunited with Almost Famous director Cameron Crowe for We Bought a Zoo, due December 23.
B.B. King in concert
Pierce tromboning on Treme