Sam Rockwell - Cowboys and Aliens

Sam Rockwell is known for dancing his heart out in many of the movies he’s appeared in over the years. But soon he’ll be belting out the country western tunes of legendary singer Merle Haggard in a new biopic about the man himself at Amazon Studios.

Merle Haggard famously went from prison inmate to country western star, a true rags-to-riches story. In fact, Haggard was one of the inmates present during Johnny Cash’s first-ever prison performance at San Quentin State Prison back in 1958, and that was the life-changing moment that drove him to becoming a music legend.

Deadline has news of the Merle Haggard movie that just got picked up by Amazon Studios. Sam Rockwell is attached to star in the movie as Haggard, and he’ll also be doing his own singing, which will very likely make him an Oscar contender for Lead Actor when the time comes. He’ll be reteaming with director Robin Bissell, who recently worked with Rockwell in last year’s racial drama The Best of Enemies.

The Merle Haggard biopic will follow the singer’s rise to fame as he makes strides in trying to become a better man and eventually a revered country music artist. It’ll also dive into his romance with fellow singer Bonnie Owens. But hopefully it’ll be more than a color-by-numbers music biopic, a subgenre that has been ruined by the spoof comedy Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Then again, people went crazy for Bohemian Rhapsody, and it earned several Oscar nominations and even some wins while being one of the most cliched rock biopics in recent memory.

The country singer had a rough childhood. His father died of a stroke when he was just nine years old and his mother left him to fend for himself when he was a teenager. At just 13 years old, Haggard was ditching school and hopping freight trains to travel across the country, stealing cars and anything else he could get his hands on across New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma. In California alone, he was busted dozens of times, but it was his penchant for escaping juvenile facilities no less than 17 times that got him thrown into San Quentin State Prison, which is where he decided to turn his life around after that fateful Johnny Cash concert.

Haggard had 38 number-one hits on the US country charts from the 1960s to the 1980s and a total of 71 songs that made it into the top 10 on the Billboard charts. He was also inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and was given a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement, and Kennedy Center Honors. He’s been called one of the greatest musicians of all time by several prominent artists, and is considered a pioneer of country music.

This sounds like a juicy role for Sam Rockwell to sink his teeth into, one worthy of his incredible talents. Though Rockwell has been consistently praised for a variety of performances over the years, only recently has he started to get the Oscars attention he deserves. Rockwell was nominated for Best Supporting Actor after playing George W. Bush in Vice, and the year before that, he won an Oscar for his supporting turn in Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, a role which won him several awards in 2018. Here’s hoping we’ll see him among the nominees in the future for his portrayal of Merle Haggard.

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