Haggard’s wild, woolly youth to become UA biopic

While there is no shortage of musical biography projects, it’s unusual to find one that covers the life story of a music legend before he’s even recorded a song. But United Artists topper John Calley is closing on a deal for a film biopic of Merle Haggard that will focus only on the days when the C& W legend was a legendary teenage outlaw.

Haggard’s about to receive the Legend Award at the upcoming Country Radio Music Awards. But before he racked up 40 No. 1 hits including “Okie From Muskogee,” Haggard was racking up robbery convictions at an alarming rate. Haggard eventually served four years’ hard time for armed robbery when he tried to knock off a roadhouse. He wound up bunked next to a man headed for the electric chair and realized he might share the same fate unless he did the only thing he could do well, which was sing and play guitar.

The film, covering Haggard from age 13 to 22, will be written by Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson, who wrote “One False Move,” and will be produced by Michael Cieply and Robert Duvall’s Butchers Run Prods., whose vice president was instrumental in putting the picture together.

The deal, pegged at mid-six-figures, came out of UA’s “A Family Thing,” which was scripted by Thornton and Epperson, produced by Butchers Run and stars Duvall.

A deal’s being worked out for the participation of Haggard, who plans to write and perform songs.

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