Four members of B.B. King’s band will portray themselves in The Thrill Is Gone, an upcoming film that stars The Wire’s Wendell Pierce as the legendary bluesman.
The Thrill Is Gone — which King’s estate has specified is not an authorized biopic — tells the story of King’s friendship with drummer Michael Zanetis, also a producer on the film, from 1980 to 1990.
Four of King’s band members from that era — Walter Riley King, James “Boogaloo” Bolden, Michael Doster, and Tony Coleman — will co-star as themselves alongside Pierce’s King in the “docudrama,” which goes into production in 2021, Variety reports.
“We’re honored to have these extraordinary musicians join us in our tribute to Mr. King. They traveled the world with him for decades and continue to keep his legacy alive,” Zanetis said.
Following Pierce’s declaration that he would play B.B. King in an upcoming film, the blues legend’s estate clarified that they have their own official biopic in the works, with Saturday Night Live’s Kenan Thompson among the actors rumored to star.
“I am not qualified to write a biopic of Mr. King’s life, but this decade of his life is a chapter I lived with him,” Zanetis told Variety earlier this week. “Our friendship flourished until our last visit in 2011.”
The chairman of the King estate, Vassal Benford, also told Variety, “We want to be crystal clear that the film announced by Pierce is not a biopic, as there are several major players involved in the new B.B. King biopic and the estate does not want there to be any confusion as to the nature of each separate project. One is a docudrama, and the other is the official B.B. King biopic approved by corporate management of the B.B. King estate and trust as a part of B.B. King’s legacy initiative.”
Pierce later apologized on Twitter for the confusion: “The Estate of BB King has requested I clarify the film The Thrill Is Gone is not a biopic in the traditional sense. It is a dramatized version of a real-life friendship story in the spirit of the film Round Midnight. The friendship of two musicians, one being the King of the Blues. As I stated before, and nothing has changed: I promised BB King before he died, I will honor him and his creative genius. An American Icon.”