Studio goes country with Howard, Brewer

“Hustle & Flow” duo Terrence Howard and director Craig Brewer will move from rap to country, teaming at Paramount Pictures on a biopic of singer Charley Pride.

Paramount closed a deal for life rights of Pride and wife Rozene, and rights to use his songs. Stephanie Allain and Tom Lassally will produce.

As Joaquin Phoenix did in “Walk the Line,” Howard will sing the country icon’s songs and play guitar in the drama.

Born to sharecroppers in Mississippi, Pride dreamed of playing professional baseball. He played in the Negro Leagues before joining the Army. After being discharged, he moved to Montana where he worked in construction and continued to play minor league ball. After moving to Nashville, he became a country sensation; between 1966 and 1984, 51 of his 54 singles cracked the country top 10. Although his achievements occurred during the civil rights movement, black America did not celebrate him and Pride struggled with the knowledge that many of his fans were white and racist.

“When Jackie Robinson broke the barrier, there was a flood of talent that came after him, but Charley was alone,” Brewer said.

Pic will showcase Pride’s relationship with Rozene, whom he met when he was playing for the Memphis Red Sox. While Pride racked up 36 No. 1 hits, Rozene’s financial acumen and real estate investments made them fantastically wealthy.

“This is a story of black love like we’ve not seen onscreen,” said Allain, who partners with Brewer in the Par-based shingle Southern Cross the Dog.

Dub Cornett will be music supervisor on the Pride film, while Howard and Victoria Frederick will exec produce.

Brewer, who just completed “Black Snake Moan” for Paramount Vantage, next will direct the country-themed drama “Maggie Lynn” for Paramount. He’ll follow with the Pride story.

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