Whitaker to direct, star in ‘World’

Legende to produce Louis Armstrong biopic

Forest Whitaker will direct and star in Louis Armstrong biopic “What a Wonderful World” for Paris-based Legende, the company behind “La Vie en rose.”

Legende’s Alain Goldman is producing alongside Edward R. Pressman.

Ron Bass, who will pen the original script, is exec producing with Oscar Cohen, executive of the Armstrong estate and the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation.

Film, the first bigscreen project to be authorized by the Armstrong estate, will kick off during the musician’s impoverished early years in New Orleans and primarily chronicle his career as a trumpet virtuoso and improvisational singer.

“Armstrong left a monumental mark on our lives and our culture,” said Whitaker, who portrayed jazz great Charlie Parker in “Bird.” “He lived an amazing life and, through his art, shifted the way music was played and would be heard after him, not just here in the U.S. but all over the world.”

“What a Wonderful World” will begin shooting in the summer in Louisiana.

Cohen, who began working for the musician in the late ’40s as his road manager, is granting the filmmakers exclusive access to his personal accounts as well as to letters and other material in the Armstrong archives.

In addition to his role as a pioneering musician, Armstrong appeared in more than 30 films.

Whitaker, whose most recent directing credit was 20th Century Fox’s “First Daughter,” has a number of acting vehicles in the can, including “Repossession Mambo,” “Hurricane Season” and “Powder Blue.”

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