The film is being described as a passion project for the Oscar-nominated actor, who recently won plaudits at the Toronto film festival for his directorial debut, Seymour: An Introduction, a documentary about classical pianist Seymour Bernstein.
Hawke, 43, has been instrumental in developing Born to be Blue alongside producers and Canadian writer-director Robert Budreau over the past year, reports Deadline. He will star alongside The Purge’s Carmen Ejogo and Fifty Shades Of Grey’s Callum Keith Rennie in the story of Baker’s rise to notoriety, fall from grace and ultimate redemption.
Born Chesney Henry Baker in 1929 in Oklahoma, the film’s subject was also known for his skills as a flugelhornist and vocalist. He broke through in the 1950s, playing with Charlie Parker and joining the Gerry Mulligan quartet. But he had already begun taking heroin and was in and out of prison for the next two decades, spending more than a year in prison in Italy on drug charges in the early 1960s and at one point being deported back to the US from West Germany after running into trouble with the law. In 1968 he was savagely beaten by acquaintances and lost the ability to play trumpet after losing several of his teeth, reputedly working for a period pumping petrol to pay the bills.
In the 1970s Baker experienced a career resurgence after being fitted with dentures, with Budreau’s film set to suggest that a romance helped him to emerge from his previous difficulties. During this period, Baker is said to have been helped by his girlfriend Diane Vavra, with whom he had a relationship spanning 18 years. He spent much of his time in Europe, returning to the US for just a few gigs each year.
After a career in which he is said to have made as many as 900 recordings, many now lost, Baker died after falling from a hotel balcony in Amsterdam in 1988 at the age of 58. The death was ruled an accident, though an autopsy found heroin and cocaine in the trumpeter’s system. That same year, Baker was the subject of the Oscar-nominated Bruce Weber documentary Let’s Get Lost, titled after one of his recordings.
Born To Be Blue is currently shooting in Ontario, Canada. Producers will aim to sell the biopic to distributors at next month’s American Film Market in Santa Monica, California.
This article was written by Ben Child, for theguardian.com on Friday 24th October 2014 11.46 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010