David Foster will produce with Duncan McGillivray, and next week they will shop to studios and financiers a package that includes the complete music rights to Gaye’s catalog, including the hits that made him Motown’s biggest solo male star.
Those tunes include “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “What’s Goin’ On” and “Let’s Get It On.” Plan is to have the star of the film lip synch to Gaye’s recordings.
Gray (“The Italian Job”) has long wanted to tell Gaye’s story, but the inability to secure music rights has made it a high mountain to climb. A rival pic, “Sexual Healing,” produced by James Gandolfini, who has a role, and starring Jesse L. Martin, will focus on the singer’s declining years, because the filmmakers have rights to use songs only from his post-Motown career. That film, reportedly skedded to start last month in Europe, has not begun production.
Gray said his movie will cover Gaye’s entire life, from his emergence at Motown through his defiance of Berry Gordy to record “What’s Goin’ On” and on up to his death.
“This is my passion project, the one that I wake up every day thinking about,” Gray told Daily Variety. “I’m going to tell a truthful story, and there is no shortage of drama and extreme conflict in a relationship with his father that at its core is Shakespearean and tragic.”This isn’t the average biopic of a rock star wrestling with drugs and women, but a man whose musical awakening became a call to action that questioned critical issues like a costly foreign war, recession, environment, inequality — issues that are relevant now.”
The music rights were secured by McGillivray, the former Bank of America exec who once arranged credit lines for studios and producers in the 1980s.
“My mantra was, no music, no movie, but to me, the core story is a man who spent his whole life trying to justify and prove himself to a father who beat him down physically and later mentally,” said McGillivray. “His father was a cross-dressing, alcoholic Baptist minister who was let off the hook for shooting his son.”
Vet producer Foster was brought in to guide the picture, which will be a co-production of David Foster Prods. and McGillivray’s Film by Humans. DFP’s Ryan Heppe is co-producing.