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Sitting down in The Hollywood Reporter’s Studio at Sundance to promote their new documentary series Willie Nelson and Family, about the life of the legendary musician, filmmakers Thom Zimny and Oren Moverman opened up about the prospect of a narrative feature in the future.
“I never imagined we’d be doing a documentary about him because he never really wanted a documentary made about him,” Moverman explained.
Obviously, Nelson had a change of heart, leading to the premiere of Willie Nelson & Family. So when asked whether a biopic in the vein of modern films like Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman, Elvis, or I Wanna Dance With Somebody could ever materialize, Moverman responded encouragingly, saying he thinks Nelson is “interested in that.”
“He’s had time to reflect over the pandemic. He’s been very careful. He’s almost 90 years old. He lost his sister, who was 91, recently. She’s in the movie and she’s a huge part of his life,” he continued. “So he believes in a lot of inspiring things, and he is a big reincarnation guy. He’s seeing something right now that makes sense to him, and I think he’s very open to a biopic.”
The five-part series Willie Nelson & Family premiered as part of the festival’s Indie Episodic program. Both Zimny and Moverman are recent Emmy winners — the former for directing the variety special Springsteen on Broadway and the latter for the TV movie Bad Education, starring Hugh Jackman.
Nelson’s life story in the documentary and, presumably, the biopic takes or would take a warts-and-all approach to capturing his character.
“His openness is shocking,” Moverman continues. “If you do a deep dive, it’s not going to be all surface gloss. Many parts of his life have been amazing, but he was very open about the dark stuff, about the heartbreaks and the pain. He was open at all times, and he basically said, ‘ask me anything.’”
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