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I don’t think anyone would argue that the greatest musical biopic of 2013 – a year that admittedly wasn’t overflowing with musical biopics – was the Coen brothers’ folk masterpiece Inside Llewyn Davis - which wasn’t even about a real person. And this may not be much of a bold prediction, but I foresee Unclaimed Freight’s upcoming Gregg Allman biopic Midnight Rider becoming the next must-see musician docudrama, a feeling made even stronger with the addition of Oscar winner William Hurt, who is set to play the legendary rocker in his later years. Sounds like the producers ain’t wastin' time no more in getting this one to the screen.
An adaptation of the My Cross to Bear, Allman’s tragedy-filled memoir published last year, Midnight Rider will tell two stories at once. Part of the focus will be on the musician’s early days, including the formation of the Allman Brothers Band with sibling Duane, who died two short years later in a motorcycle accident (Duane will be played by actor Wyatt Russell (We Are What We Are). The other focus of the narrative will be on current-day Allman, who realized that he had to leave behind the life of booze, drugs and frequent divorce if he was to continue living at all. This is where Hurt comes in, while the youthful sections will feature the leading man debut from Tyson Ritter, lead singer of the band The All-American Rejects. Those two bands are completely synonymous with each other, right? (shakes head slowly.)
The film will be directed by Randall Miller from a script he co-wrote with Jody Savin. This is the duo behind last year’s mostly forgettable music-centered film CBGB. According to THR, Hurt was apparently integral to getting Miller’s career started, as Savin says Hurt "made an anonymous monetary donation to [Miller’s] AFI thesis film," and even agreed to record a voiceover for the film once his identity was revealed.
There’s no denying that the esteemed actor will add a thespian gravitas that just wasn’t in the cast without him. Hurt had an up-and-down 2013, starring in the fairly well-crafted TV movies The Challenger Disaster and Bonnie and Clyde, but he was also in Andrew Niccol’s blink-and-you’re-sleeping sci-fi drama The Host. He should have a decent 2014, with roles in Ned Benson’s perspective-switching double movie The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Christian Camargo’s family drama Days and Nights, and in Akiva Goldsman’s highly anticipated dark fantasy Winter’s Tale.
Just in case you haven’t tapped your foot to anything today, indulge on this Allman Brothers Band performance of "Midnight Rider" from 1991.