It’s not exactly a surprise that a Roy Orbison biopic is in development; if you named any beloved musician from the past at random, you’d probably find that most of them have a script about them — or at least the idea of one — floating around Hollywood somewhere. But today, news has broken that a biopic about the rockabilly musician could be imminent, and so it feels a bit more official than a mere idea; it also feels a bit more intriguing, because Roy Orbison is, well, fantastic, and because, since his voice is pretty damn inimitable (and had a four-octave range), it’ll be interesting seeing what actor they’ll choose to try to match his eerily velvety timbre — if they even try to have said actor actually sings his music. Hopefully they’ll also change the name of the project, which, as Deadline reports, currently stands at The Big O: Roy Orbison.
Stand by Me screenwriting duo Ray Gideon and Bruce Evans have been asked to write the film. The project is also being developed in large part by Orbison’s own family (perhaps explaining the cheesily hagiographic title): Orbison’s remaining sons, Alex and Roy Orbison, Jr. are producing alongside Marty Katz, while his other son, Wesley, is one of the executive producers. (The Orbison sons have made artistic homages to their father in the past: in 2014, they reportedly used technology to turn a rough recording of a vocal track of their father’s on a boombox into a new song.) Unlike other music biopics you may have heard of being afflicted by difficulties securing rights to necessary songs, the estate-approved/involved nature of this film-to-be means that his songs and recordings are almost entirely open to the project.
As with most performers who get biopics, Orbison was a superlative talent whose life was also laden with tragedy; his first wife Claudette died at 25 in a motorcycle crash, and two of his sons died in a fire; Orbison himself died at the young age of 52, of a heart attack. His son Alex, addressing the devastating events of Orbison’s life, as well as Orbison’s personal and artistic perseverance, said:
He was so inspiring as a person because, after everything he had been through, good and bad, he still had a positive outlook on life, and was kind and wonderful. The movie will mirror a Roy Orbison song: having triumph and tragedy, sometimes losing the girl and sometimes getting the girl, and ending on a high note. Our father’s life story has an undeniably cinematic quality to it. We feel that the telling of it is in extraordinarily capable hands with Bruce and Ray and the overall team that will bring The Big O Finally to the screen.