It was in mid-2011 when we first announced that a Sam Cooke biopic was in the works.
At the time, a script had already been written (by the screenwriters who penned Julie Taymor’s "Across The Universe," and "The Commitments" – Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais), which was an adaptation of Peter Guralnick’s 2005 bio, "Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke."
The news came 4 years after author Guralnick produced the award-winning documentary "Sam Cooke: Legend," said to be "the only authorized documentary on Cooke."
The film was to cover Cooke’s entire life (born in 1931, died in 1964), and, apparently, all rights (music and life rights) to Cooke’s story had been secured from the Cooke family estate, and the production team behind the project planned to independently finance it (no surprise there certainly), with the hunt for a star and director to attach to the project.
It looked like that project was dead when, 2 years later, in 2013, we learned that another Sam Cooke film was also in the works, with Mr Carl Franklin ("Devil In A Blue Dress," "One False Move") attached to write and direct.
To be produced by Mark Ciardi, Gordon Gray, and Jody Klein, the project was described as the true story of the legendary singer/songwriter, who started out as a Gospel singer and horrified his fellow musicians when he crossed over into pop music. Enormously successful, Sam was less happy in his personal life, since his relentless womanizing and touring schedule alienated his troubled wife Barbara, in a marriage that went into a downward spiral after the tragic death of their baby son.
ABKCO Films was the production house behind the project – a company with a number of music-themed films on their resume, including a DVD release of the previously mentioned documentary, "Sam Cooke – Legend."
Casting was said to have begun on the project, as a search for an actor to play Cooke was underway; but no word was given on an expected production start or release dates.
And since that announcement, we haven’t heard anything on progress on that particular Sam Cooke biopic.
Skip ahead to this evening, with news, courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter, that yet another attempt at telling the story of Sam Cooke on film, is in the works, with music and film producer Romeo Antonio, in collaboration with Cooke’s family, to develop the project, with a script being written by Mary Krell-Oishi.
Also working on the project is author B.G. Rhule, who wrote the book, "One More River to Cross: The Redemption of Sam Cooke."
"For years, people have becoming at us to do a movie about Sam. But he was the first person who sounded like he wanted what we wanted: the truth to come out about my uncle and his death," said Eugene Jamison about producer Antonio.
"It’s the 60s, you could do it like ‘Selma,’ but it’s not the direction I’m going with," Antonio added. "My pitch to them was a murder mystery. Who did this? And it’s being written in that fashion."
On December 11, 1964, at the age of 33, Cooke was fatally shot by Bertha Franklin, the manager of the Hacienda Motel in Los Angeles, California, who claimed that she shot him in self-defense after he broke into her office residence and attacked her. Her account was immediately questioned and disputed by Cooke’s family. After an inquest, the courts ruled Cooke’s death to be a justifiable homicide, and since then, the circumstances of his death have been consistently called into question by Cooke’s family and his wide circle of friends and acquaintances.
"I am treating it like a murder investigation," producer Antonio says.
No ETA yet; let’s hope this one eventually is produced.