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Exclusive: Carl Franklin Set To Write & Direct Sam Cooke Biopic; Casting Underway

by Tambay A. Obenson
March 26, 2013 8:28 PM
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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.

There hasn't been an update on that biopic since that initial announcement - nothing that we've known about anyway - and it looks like the project is dead; one, which I recall, a lot of you were excited about.

But not to worry, because, earlier today, I learned that another Sam Cooke film is definitely in the works, and this one already has a writer and director attached to it, and has also begun casting!

The writer/director is one Mr Carl Franklin, whom I'm sure you're all familiar with - Devil In A Blue DressOne False Move, and most recently Bless Me, Ultima, to name a few.

To be produced by Mark Ciardi, Gordon Gray, and Jody Klein, here's how the currently-untitled project is described:

This is the true story of the legendary singer/songwriter Sam Cooke, 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 is 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

Carl Franklin

They've also released docs featuring The Rolling StonesEric Clapton, George Harrison, Bob Dylan and Ringo Starr, to name a few.

Casting has begun on the project, as a search for an actor to play Cooke is underway; but no word on expected production start or release dates.

Franklin's first theatrically-released film in a decade, Bless Me, Ultima, based on Rudolfo Anaya’s award-winning novel of the same name, opened across the country, in a limited release, in February.

The film chronicles the turbulent coming-of-age story of Antonio, a young boy growing up in New Mexico during World War II, and his relationship with Ultima, an elderly medicine woman who helps Antonio navigate the dangerous battle between good and evil raging in his village, and ultimately helps him discover his own spiritual identity.

Prior to Bless me Ultima, Franklin's last big screen feature release was Out Of Time in 2003. Although he directed lots of episodic TV after that film, and continues to do so.

I think he's a great fit for this Sam Cooke project, and I'd glad he's getting the opportunity!

Stay tuned...

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  • Sky Fairlane | September 19, 2013 8:31 PMReply

    I was just a kid when Sam died, but grew up listening to his velvet voice. I’m still listening today. Lately I can’t seem to get enough of his songs. I’m wearing Youtube out.

    “If you wanted to leave me and roam,
    When you got back, I’d just say welcome home.”

    Man, he crooned the HELL out of that line.

    I’ve been wondering for years why his story has never done. Can’t wait, I’ll be first in line on opening day. Hurry up!

  • Alex | September 15, 2013 4:50 AMReply

    I'm very happy to hear that a film is finally in the works for the late great Sam Cooke. He was by far one of the key pioneers of soul music. In my opinion, he was the father of soul music (no others could compare). My first choice to play Sam has always been Denzel Washington. However, Denzel is a little up in age now. So.... in my opinion, I would have to say either Columbus Short (1st choice) or Brian White (2nd choice).

  • Jim Murray | September 10, 2013 5:46 AMReply

    I in my opinion believe Terrence Howard would be a good choice to play Sam Cooke, he's a very gifted actor, but I truly believe Blair Underwood beter and more appropriate choice to play Sam Cooke, he has very similar features as Sam, he has the mannerism of Sam, talks in a similar tone as the singer, and he also has the same skin tone as Sam Cooke, and he is a very gifted and talented actor. Blair Underwood would make a very believable actor to portray the singer Sam Cooke. I believe Blair Underwood could pull it off.

  • Kaiaze | June 15, 2013 4:17 AMReply

    I hope they get John legend to portray him..

  • Mr Soul | February 18, 2014 12:15 PM

    John who please gave me a brake .Listen to Sam & to John no way . Kevon Edmonds the man. But this movie will not tell the whole story read one more river to cross that's the real story.

  • Mr Soul | February 18, 2014 12:12 PM

    John who please gave me a brake .Listen to Sam & to John no way . Kevon Edmonds the man. But this movie will not tell the whole story read one more river to cross that's the real story.

  • Mr Soul | February 18, 2014 12:11 PM

    John who please gave me a brake .Listen to Sam & to John no way . Kevon Edmonds the man. But this movie will not tell the whole story read one more river to cross that's the real story.

  • turner | June 15, 2013 8:55 AM

    He's not an actor.

  • Jeff | June 1, 2013 12:16 PMReply

    I always liked Sam Cooke. But I really got into him a few years ago when I bought his "Portrait Of A Legend" album. Took it home and found it hard to turn my stereo off for the next few days.

    Not long after that I read Dream Boogie and set out to write a script for a Sam Cooke biopic. Unfortunately I could never quite get into the groove I needed to to get it done. I put it aside afte a while.

    If I had completed the script and directed it, my choice to play Sam would have been Terrence Howard.

    But I like the idea of this one. Carl Franklin's a great underrated filmmaker and a fantastic choice to direct. I agree with the Chiwetel Ejiofor suggestion. But I still like the idea of Terence Howard as Sam Cooke.

  • Cortwright L C. | April 6, 2013 10:28 AMReply

    I hope that when all is settled with the Sam Cooke project, that they will bring the Brooke Benton story to life.
    Listen to Brooke present lyrics and the story told is so well presented.


  • S.K. | March 28, 2013 6:50 PMReply

    I actually think Chiwetel Ejiofor would be better for this role than he would be for, say, Fela. Then again he's great in everything, so I guess it doesn't matter.

  • Ava | March 27, 2013 9:31 PMReply

    I've long appreciated Carl Franklin's cinematic style, so I'm going to remain positive about this.

  • zakmu | March 27, 2013 8:08 AMReply

    Carl Franklin is a great choice. I'm sure he will do the film justice.

  • burt | March 27, 2013 1:11 AMReply

    Greta news! But until then watch Innerspace for our Sam Cooke fix!!

  • PK | March 26, 2013 10:00 PMReply

    I'd love to see a film on him and hear his music played throughout. I think Nate Parker should have a chance. With "Great Debators", "Pride", "Red Tails" & "Blood Done Signed My Name" he's already into period pieces and biographies, and he has the charm and smile to capture Sam Cooke

  • Josh | February 11, 2014 1:35 PM

    Nate Parker would be a great choice.

  • Josh | February 11, 2014 1:35 PM

    Nate Parker would be a great choice.

  • Josh | February 11, 2014 1:34 PM

    Nate Parker would be a great choice.

  • Darkan | March 26, 2013 8:53 PMReply

    PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do Sam's story justice and with integrity. He was one of our finest. Nuff said!

  • Michael Houlroyd | September 8, 2013 1:06 AM

    I think that Bruno Mars would be a solid choice.

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