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Teddy Pendergrass, the R&B legend who became the first black male singer to record five consecutive multiplatinum albums in the U.S., is getting the documentary treatment.
Storyvault Films, Tempo Productions and Wasted Talent are on board to produce Pendergrass, examining the life of the singer known as the “Black Elvis,” who rose to fame in the ‘70s as the lead singer for Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes and achieved global success with hits including “Don’t Leave Me This Way” and “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.” Pendergass‘ career would be interrupted in 1981 when he was paralyzed in a car accident at just 31 years old, although he would return in the ‘90s. He died in 2010 following respiratory failure.
The film is being directed by BAFTA-winning filmmaker Olivia Lichtenstein (The Silent Twin: Without My Shadow, Broadmoor and Who Killed Kirsty MacColl?). Content Media has signed on to handle international sales, with its president of film Jamie Carmichael and exec vp sales and distribution Jonathan Ford introducing the film to buyers at the European Film Market in Berlin. BBC Films is co-financing.
Pendergrass is being produced by Lichtenstein via her TV production company Storyvault Films in association with Tempo Productions’ Piers Tempest (upcoming Churchill, The Wife) and Wasted Talent’s Ian Flooks (Killing Bono, Robot Overlords).
Joe Oppenheimer, BBC Films’ acting head, is exec producing alongside Pendergrass’ former manager Shep Gordon, Daniel Markus and Allan Strahl.
“Everyone knows his voice — ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way,’ ‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now,’ ‘Love’ … and a score of other instantly recognizable and much-covered classics — but all too many have forgotten the extraordinary story of the man behind it — and his unique contribution to the history of popular music and his courageous triumph over adversity,” said Lichtenstein.
Added Oppenheimer: “From Olivia’s earliest pitch, we knew that this was a story demanding to be told. We’re delighted to back her ambition to bring Teddy Pendergrass’ extraordinary talent and remarkable life to cinema audiences everywhere.”
Content’s Carmichael and Ford said, “this is a really powerful human story, backed up by a unique musical angle — we’re really excited to introduce this important project to our friends in distribution.”
Production on Pendergrass is due to start in April.
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