deadline.com reports that Amazon Studios has acquired the rights to create a Merle Haggard biopic. Top of the list to play The Hag s Oscar-winning actor Sam Rockwell (The Green Mile, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Blaze) and that he will do his own singing of Haggard’s perennial standards
Robin Bissell will direct the film and will write the script with Merle’s widow, Theresa Haggard, based on the Haggard memoir Sing Me Back Home. Bissell and Haggard will produce the film jointly.
The film covers Haggard’s subsequent struggle to escape his hard past to become a better man and legendary artist. Ashamed of his past, Haggard hid his ex-con status from all but those closest to him until finally coming clean on Johnny Cash’s TV show in 1969. The story also focuses heavily on Merle’s complicated love affair, which played out on-stage and off, with singer Bonnie Owens – his singing partner and eventual wife.
Once Haggard figured it all out, he became a symbol of the power of rehabilitation: from 1966-1970, Merle had 9 number one hits, and would record 38 number one tunes overall and 71 in the top ten. His biggest hits included Okie From Muskogee, The Fightin’ Side Of Me, Sing Me Back Home, The Fugitive, Workin’ Man Blues, Mama Tried and Today I Started Loving You Again, to name only a few. He won seven CMA awards including Entertainer of The Year in 1970. Haggard in 1972 was pardoned by Governor Ronald Reagan, and astronaut Charlie Duke took his Merle Haggard tape to the moon on Apollo 16.