Finally (perhaps), a movie about Merle Haggard is in the making

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Practically his whole life, people told Merle Haggard his life played like a movie. Well, now it is a movie … or may soon be. Plans are in the works for a Merle Haggard biopic — possibly to star Academy Award-winning actor Sam Rockwell.

You thought Johnny Cash had a compelling story. Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of the country music legend in “Walk the Line” had all the right ingredients. But Johnny Cash never turned 21 in prison.

Johnny Cash never tried to burglarize a cafe while it was still open, never sang the accidental anthem of the great silent majority. Merle Haggard did all those and more, and now — after years of talk — his story is coming to the big screen. Amazon Studios has acquired rights to a film about the late, great country crooner, with Rockwell in talks to play Haggard — and do his own singing.

The film, based on the singer’s 1981 memoir “Sing Me Back Home,” will be directed by Robin Bissell, who is reportedly co-writing the script with Merle’s widow, Theresa Haggard. The fifth of Haggard’s five wives is also set to co-produce the film.

Merle Haggard, whose boyhood home, a converted rail boxcar, is on display at the Kern County Museum, died in 2016 at the age of 79.

The forthcoming film will be set in the 1960s and is said to focus on Haggard’s rise from San Quentin inmate to what some regard as the single most influential singer-songwriter in country music history. And, yes, it will also include Haggard’s complicated romance with singer and former wife Bonnie Owens.

Steel guitar player Norm Hamlet, who started playing with Haggard in 1962, when they were both sidemen in Fuzzy Owen’s band, says this is one story that needs telling.

If you followed Haggard’s career at all you know his story is full of dramatic highs and lows. Now,
if all goes according to plan, the rest of America will too.

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