The estate of the late BB King has addressed the confusion surrounding The Thrill Is On, an upcoming film about the blues legend. The estate has confirmed that the film, which will star Wendell Piece, is not an official project. However, a biopic that is sanctioned by King’s estate will begin pre-production next year.
Wendell Pierce – known for his roles as Detective Bunk Moreland in The Wire and James Greer in Jack Ryan – recently confirmed his role in The Thrill Is On, doing so via Twitter. He later clarified, at the request of King’s estate, that the film will “not be a biopic in the traditional sense”.
Instead of being a broad-reaching biopic, the film centres on the relationship between King and Michael Zanetis – the musician, club owner and entrepreneur who helped King earn his star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. Zanetis himself is attached to the project as both a writer and producer.
Now, the chairman of BB King’s estate Vassal Benford has told Variety that they will be releasing a film of their own, to begin pre-production next year. “We want to be crystal clear that the film announced by Pierce is not a biopic,” he said, before clarifying further: “there are several major players involved in the new BB King biopic and the estate does not want there to be any confusion as to the nature of each separate project.”
The estate also confirmed that “a major director is also in talks” to be on board with the film.
The Thrill Is On was first announced back in 2011, under the title BB King And I. But it was met with significant resistance from King himself. According to The Hollywood Reporter, a lawyer representing the guitarist filed a cease-and-desist order against King Size Films Productions, the studio working on the project at the time, back in July 2011. They claimed that the film violated the musician’s trademarks and publicity rights. The case was dismissed a few months after it was filed, and production on the film was set aside. Both Pierce and Zanetis have said that King gave them his blessing to make the film before his death in 2015.
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