‘Ray’ producer Stuart Benjamin also boards the drama about the artist breaking racial barriers with his historic 1958 U.S. concert tour.
By Etan Vlessing, The Hollywood Reporter
Driving Miss Daisy director Bruce Beresford is set to direct Clear Lake, the Buddy Holly biopic.
Ray and La Bamba producer Stuart Benjamin has also boarded the project developed with the Buddy Holly estate. Clear Lake will open with Holly’s teen years, then portray his 1958 Biggest Show of Stars tour with Clarence Collins, founder of Little Anthony & the Imperials, as they broke racial barriers by performing together across the U.S. in 1958.
While also following Holly’s musical ties with Little Richard, Dion, Lavern Baker and other pop music pioneers, Clear Lake will bridge to Holly meeting his future bride, Maria Elena Holly, and a fateful decision to sign onto the 1959 Winter Dance Party tour that ended with a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa on February 3, 1959.
Holly’s widow, Maria Elena Holly, also helped developed Clear Lake as an associate producer.
“The undertone of the story is how black, Hispanic and white artists came together on the first truly integrated music tour to begin to break down color barriers, in much the same way Jackie Robinson did in professional baseball. That’s a particularly relevant story for me to tell because I co-own the minor league baseball team in Daytona Beach, Florida, where Jackie Robinson first broke baseball’s color barrier,” Rick French, who executive produces Clear Lake, told THR.
Oscar nominee Beresford is best known for movies like Breaker Morant, Tender Mercies, which earned lead Robert Duvall a best actor Oscar, and Driving Miss Daisy, which starred Morgan Freeman, Jessica Tandy and Dan Aykroyd and captured four Academy Awards, including best picture.
“I found myself attracted to Clear Lake because the script tells the tragic story of Buddy Holly and his era in fascinating detail and with vivid characterizations. Needless to say, the added plus of all the wonderful music was also a major lure,” Beresford said in a statement.
Virtual casting of roles for Clear Lake has begun and is being led by Jenn Presser and Caitlin Well of Presser/Well Casting. The movie is budgeted at $15 million to $20 million, depending on the eventual cast.
Clear Lake, based on a screenplay by Patrick Shanahan, is aiming at a fall 2020 production start, pending sufficient safety precautions amid the pandemic, including a clearance from SAG-AFTRA and securing a completion bond.
Stuart Benjamin is no stranger to music-driven projects, having received an Oscar nomination for Ray, the Ray Charles biopic that starred Jamie Foxx, and having produced the music drama La Bamba, starring Lou Diamond Phillips and about a young Ritchie Valens. Valens died along with Holly and J.P Richardson in the 1959 plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa.
After the 60th anniversary of Holly’s plane crash last year, interest in the famed rock musician has continued with a $155 million Buddy Holly Performing Arts Center now under construction in Lubbock, Texas and set to open its doors this Fall.
Clear Lake is produced by French and Shanahan’s Raleigh-based Prix Productions, in association with Stuart Benjamin Productions and BMG. Maria Elena Holly shares associate producer credits with Stephen Easley, general counsel to Ms. Holly and The Buddy Holly Educational Foundation, and Peter Bradley Jr. of The Buddy Holly Educational Foundation.
Shanahan, who adapted French and Easley’s original story, is a co-producer. Beresford is repped by The Gersh Agency, Benjamin is repped by the Johnson & Johnson law firm, and French is repped by Buchwald.