Bunk! 'The Wire' Star Wendell Pierce To Play Blues Legend B.B. King In New Biopic

by Oliver Lyttelton
May 19, 2011 3:10 AM
4 Comments
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Patrick Fugit Joins Him In 'B.B. King And I'



We suspect we've said this before, but, while we love basically every character on HBO's much-missed masterpiece "The Wire," our favorite may have been Detective William 'Bunk' Moreland, as embodied by Wendell Pierce, the warm beating heart of the show, but capable of regular badassery (watch the Season 3 confrontation with Omar, one of the great pieces of television acting by both Pierce and Michael K. Williams, for proof). Like many of the show's stars, the 49-year-old actor has gone on to bigger, if not better, things -- he's currently one of the key cast members in David Simon's 'Wire' follow-up "Treme," and before the year is out he'll crop up in both the comedy "Horrible Bosses" and in mega-franchise film "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Pt. 1." But it looks like he's finally landed a long overdue starring role.

The excellent Shadow and Act, the latest addition to the indieWire family, have confirmed a tweet from the actor (Bunk's on Twitter? We know who we're following today) announcing that he'll play legendary blues star B.B King in a new film focusing on the singer's relationship with a young musician, "B.B. King And I."

The film is written by Michael Zanetis & Melora Donoghue, and Zanetis himself, a former jazz drummer turned night club owner, serves as the 'I' of the title, and it looks like he'll be played by "Almost Famous" star Patrick Fugit. The film's official site provides a lengthy synopsis of the project that fills in some details.

B.B. King and I is the unique true story of two individuals: B.B. King, the legendary guitarist and King of the Blues, and Michael Zanetis, a bold young entrepreneur. This film is the story of how their lives became intertwined and the significant impact they had on each other. It is the story of their struggle in an America that provided opportunity for both men and where truly any goal can be achieved and anything is possible. It is the story of B.B. King, born in Mississippi into a harsh and segregated "Jim Crow South," who rose from picking cotton in the most extremes of poverty, to perform for royalty and be recognized as a "King" worldwide. It is also the story of a small town boy raised in the farmlands of Indiana, Michael Zanetis, the grandson of Greek immigrants who, through hard work and determination, achieved his dreams of excellence by performing and recording with some of the world's greatest musicians. This story depicts the dynamic lives of these two men and their extraordinary friendship.

From an early age, Michael Zanetis was banging on the drums. With the help of a mentor from the most unlikely of sources-Sister Mary Sarah, a Nun at the Catholic school he attended (who could rock n' roll on the piano like Billy Preston)-Michael found his niche early in life behind a set of drums. Then one day the needle hit the scratchy vinyl and his life was forever changed as he was introduced to the music of B.B. King. After hearing "The Thrill Is Gone," Michael knew exactly what he had to do. Risking it all, he packed his drum set in his van and drove to California with his girlfriend Denice, and their aptly named dog, Hollywood. Partnering with his father, and his uncle, a well-known record producer from Nashville, he assembled a band made up of some of the world's greatest session musicians. The Michael Zanetis Band recorded jam sessions that were soon being played on major LA radio stations. Life seemed unbelievably good and then suddenly and unexpectedly Michael lost his compass, his greatest supporter, and his best friend-his father. Not long after, Michael finally got to attend a B.B. King concert. He was awestruck as he watched BB's live performance of "The Thrill Is Gone." After the show, Michael asked a young man selling T-shirts if he would give his album to BB. Much to his surprise, he was escorted backstage and into the presence of the man who from then on would become a mentor, an inspiration and his true friend.

Over the years, these two lives dramatically intersect. From their two weeks together during BB's performances at the Las Vegas Hilton, to him performing at the grand opening of Michael's legendary Supper Club in Southern California, and Michael's remarkable promise, on the night BB's father died, to get BB a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, there were many poignant moments. Eventually, after seven long years of persistence, Michael got the call that his efforts had finally succeeded-and BB got his Star. And then, on the night before the Star was awarded, Michael had a lifelong dream come true. His friend and mentor, the King of the Blues, invited Michael to join him on stage at a concert to accompany him on the drums. With sticks in hand, Michael's eyes met B.B. King's on stage and astonishingly they began making music together!

B.B. King and I is the true story of love, friendship and reaching for the stars that will entertain and inspire!

Zanetis is also serving as a producer on the film, and Variety reveals that Michael Schroeder, who helmed the Christopher Plummer film "Man in the Chair," will direct the film, with a September start being eyed. We'd be lying if we said that this seemed something more than a vanity project -- we're expecting a "Cadillac Records" level of quality at the very best -- but hopefully it'll at least give Pierce a chance to shine in a more substantial big-screen role.

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4 Comments

  • George | April 10, 2012 4:09 PMReply

    As myself being a longtime BB King Fan/ Collector / Archivist. I'm disgusted at this Law suit. Not to mention this guy Michael Zanetis who supposedly is the "I" in this movie has only been visible in BB's life only for a short period of time starting in 1981 when he met BB backstage in CA just to pedal his bands demo recording so BB could help him get noticed. Then years later in 1988, when BB performed 4 nights at Michaels Supper Club in Dana Point CA. Other than that, this Mike dude has nothing else to really base any relationship with B.B. King. This talk about how Mike "helped" BB get a star of the Walk of Fame". Do you really think the King of the Blues needs help with that?? Especially from some "Never Was -Has Been" Club Owner. Now this Mike guy is trying to tie in his measly name into Mr King’s. This is just Foul !!! Forget this bio pic and somebody needs to film a real life documentary of BB's life.

  • Donald Pekkerface | May 19, 2011 5:52 AMReply

    something smells like straight-to-video in here.

  • geden | May 19, 2011 3:35 AMReply

    just a humble motherfucker with a big ass dick

  • Brendan | May 19, 2011 3:24 AMReply

    You happy now bitch

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