J2 Entertainment partners Justin Berfield and Jason Felts have acquired rights to two books about Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead and intend to make a feature on the rock band’s lead singer and guitarist.
The duo, who optioned the Sandy Troy bios “Captain Trips” and “One More Saturday Night,” do not fit the prototypical Deadhead profile. Berfield, best known for playing bullying brother Reese in “Malcolm in the Middle,” is 19; Felts is 26. Berfield said he was new to the band’s music but his father was a devout Deadhead.
The movie will revolve around Garcia’s recovery from a drug-induced coma. Garcia’s drug problem had pushed ex-wife Carolyn away from the musician, but she returned to nurse him back to health. Garcia had to relearn to play the guitar, but eventually rebounded and led the band to its biggest success.
Felts said they are working with the band and Carolyn — better known to Deadheads as Mountain Girl — to tie down the music rights.
“We wouldn’t do this without the music,” Felts said.
Troy had promised Garcia he wouldn’t make any kind of rights deal for his books until the 10th anniversary of the singer-guitarist’s death, which was in August.
They’ll try to wrap up the song rights when the project finds a studio, but Garcia did many solo songs, which his heirs control.
CAA is packaging the project, and the pair are looking for a seasoned producer to join them.
“Jerry’s story deserves to be told with color and sound, and we are going to bring him alive in a movie,” Carolyn Garcia said. “What a fortunate coming together of talent and energy, and I’m excited and happy to help it happen, to help reflect Jerry’s genius and his generous spirit accurately. There are so many stories to share.”
“We’re passionate about the project, but we realize we are young and we’ll need someone to mentor us through a project this large,” Felts said.
J2 will get its first production credit on the John Turturro-directed “Romance and Cigarettes,” and Berfield and Felts earned their first TV credit for their J2TV banner for hatching with Joe Simpson the E! reality series “Filthy Rich: Cattle Drive.” They’ve also set up a half-hour pilot at Paramount Network Television to be written by “One on One” creator Eunetta Boone.