×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Ethan Hawke, Alessandro Nivola Team on Country Music Story ‘Satan Is Real’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Ethan Hawke and Alessandro Nivola are teaming up in “Satan Is Real,” the story of the Louvin brothers. The real-life best friends will portray Charlie and Ira Louvin, influential country musicians whose relationship is forged by love, hate, jealousy, and alcohol.

In an interview with Variety, Hawke and Nivola said they hoped to achieve a music term called “blood harmony” in their performances. It’s a term that describes the kind of harmonizing that can be achieved when family members sing together, because their genetic link allows them to share the same tone in their voice.

“It’s such an important expression to us,” said Hawke. “It sounds both violent and beautiful and the music should be that. It’s aggressive, it’s electric, it’s strange. It’s not Brooklyn folk rock. It’s not wannabe cool guy country. It’s hillbilly gospel music.”

The film will be directed by Phil Morrison, who previously worked with Nivola on “Junebug.” Jon Raymond and Shelby Gaines are writing the screenplay drawing on Charlie Louvin’s adaptation. Protagonist Pictures is handling sales of the film.

The brothers may have been related, but they had dramatically different personalities. Charlie Louvin was an honest Christian man and churchgoing singer, and his brother Ira had the devil in him, known for smashing his mandolin to splinters onstage and wrecking havoc in his wake.

“It’s ultimately a tragic story but it needs to be injected with a kind of wit,” said Nivola.

The film’s producers include Frida Torresblanco for Braven Films, Ryan Hawke for Under the Influence Productions, Jeff Elliott for Off the Pier Productions, and Nivola for King Bee Productions. Executive producers are Jason Blum of Blumhouse, as well as Eric Laufer and Giovanna Randall from Braven Films.

The brothers may have been known for their buttermilk-smooth harmonies, but their personal lives were filled with sturm und drang.

“They’re singing these songs and then backstage they’re taking speed and hitting on girls and beating the shit out of each other,” said Hawke.

The two actors will be presenting the film to buyers at Cannes. In order to draw interest, they headed to the studio to record some of the singers’ work.

“We wanted to show the financiers that we can do it and it will be good,” said Hawke.

Nivola said that acting isn’t all that different from being a musician, even though one medium demands that a performer be able to sing on key.

“Creating a compelling scene is just like performing a song,” he said. “You have to choose the climactic moments. You have to find the right rhythms.”

It helps that the actors have been longtime friends since 2010 when Nivola starred in the Off Broadway revival of Sam Shepard’s “A Lie of the Mind,” which Hawke directed. Later, Hawke moved his family to the same Brooklyn neighborhood where Nivola lives.

“We like to drink beer and play guitar,” said Nivola. “Now we’ll be doing it for work.”

Hawke said that the goal is that the musical sequences will help chart the brothers’ deteriorating relationship much as the boxing sequences in “Raging Bull” served as metaphors for boxer Jake Lamotta’s problems with his brother and wife.

“We want to put all our love and disappointments and all the real stuff of life into the film,” said Hawke.

Photo credit: Jen Maler

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • 180423_A24_Day_03B_0897.jpg

    'The Lighthouse,' 'Uncut Gems' Lead Spirit Awards Nominations

    “The Lighthouse” and “Uncut Gems” led the 2020 Film Independent Spirit Awards nominations with five each, while “Give Me Liberty” and “Honey Boy” took four each. Best feature nominations went to “Uncut Gems,” along with “A Hidden Life,” “Clemency,” “The Farewell” and “Marriage Story.” Best female lead nods went to Karen Allen for “Colewell,” Hong Chau [...]

  • Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez Frozen

    How the 'Frozen' Music Team Helped Move the Story Forward in Disney's Sequel

    With Disney’s 2013 “Frozen” ranking as the highest-grossing animated film of all time and its Oscar-winning song “Let It Go” now an iconic empowerment anthem, how can the filmmakers and songwriters, reunited for “Frozen 2,” top the tale of sisters Elsa and Anna? “It was all about wanting to tell more of the story,” explains co-director [...]

  • Ben Affleck

    Ben Affleck to Direct and Produce Historical Drama 'King Leopold's Ghost'

    Ben Affleck will direct and produce the historical drama “King Leopold’s Ghost,” set in the early 20th Century in the Congo. The project will be developed by One Community. Affleck will produce via his Pearl Street Films banner, alongside Martin Scorsese who will produce via his Sikelia Productions banner. Harry and Gina Belafonte will also [...]

  • The Two Popes Marriage Story Netflix

    Streamers Ramp Up Golden Globes Race With More Contenders Than Ever

    More films from streaming services are in the awards race this year than ever, prompting some handwringing among awards season voters — most notably AMPAS board governor Steven Spielberg — about whether SVOD films with limited theatrical runs are leading to the demise of theaters and deserving of the same consideration as traditional releases. Netflix’s [...]

  • billy eichner Lion King

    Why Vocal Performances in Animated Films Deserve Their Own Oscars Category

    Given all the praise heaped on Billy Eichner’s performance this year as the wisecracking meerkat Timon in Jon Favreau’s remake of “The Lion King,” which grossed $1.6 billion worldwide, you’d think he would be a bigger contender in the Oscar conversation. His work was such a standout, he even upstaged Beyoncé’s much-hyped appearance in the [...]

  • Jumanji The Next Level

    Box Office: 'Jumanji 2' Eyes $40 Million-Plus Debut

    Will Christmas bring a fruitful box office bounty for Sony’s “Jumanji: The Next Level”? The Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart-led sequel, which arrives in theaters on Dec. 13, is on pace to debut to $40 million to $50 million, according to early tracking services. Since tracking has been unreliably for sequels in recent weeks, Sony [...]

  • Pluto TV Picks Up Collection of

    Pluto TV Picks Up Films for Woody Allen Season on U.K. Service (EXCLUSIVE)

    Viacom-owned streamer Pluto TV has inked a deal with Signature Entertainment for a collection of Woody Allen movies from the 1990s and will put them out in a dedicated season on its AVOD service in the U.K. Woody Allen Fridays start on the service this week, with the filmmaker’s pictures playing on the Pluto TV [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content