“Blaze,” a biopic about late singer-songwriter Blaze Foley filmed in the Baton Rouge area, debuts Sunday at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
Actor Ethan Hawke directed and co-wrote the drama. Village Studios in Jackson served as a production base for the project, which filmed in winter 2016 and 2017.
“I’ve loved Blaze’s music for a long while and, like many, have been moved by the events of his life,” Hawke was quoted in Deadline last year. “But after reading Sybil Rosen’s beautiful memoir, this project became a priority. We hope to bring his heartbreaking story and musical brilliance to a much larger audience.”
Baton Rouge filming locations included venues such as The Blues Room downtown and The Texas Club, and the Hilton Capitol Center’s Heidelberg Room. Parts of the film were also shot at the Shadetree Inn in St. Francisville.
Hawke previously worked in East Feliciana Parish during production of “The Magnificent Seven," a remake of the classic western also starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt.
In addition to acting in “Boyhood,” “Reality Bites,” “Before Sunrise” and dozens more, Hawke’s pre-“Blaze” directing credits include feature films such as “Chelsea Walls” and “The Hottest State,” and the documentary “Seymour: An Introduction.”
Benjamin Dickey, a musician from Little Rock, Arkansas, who moved to Caddo Parish in 2014, plays Foley in “Blaze.” Alia Shawkat (“Arrested Development,” “Search Party”) co-stars as Foley’s girlfriend, Sybil Rosen. The cast also features Sam Rockwell, Steve Zahn, Richard Linklater, Kris Kristofferson and Charlie Sexton as singer-songwriter Towns Van Zandt. Village Studios’ Jake Seal is one of the film’s producers.
Hawke co-wrote the “Blaze” screenplay with Rosen. The movie is based on her memoir, “Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remember Blaze Foley.” The film represents Foley via three periods of the musician’s life: his love affair with Rosen; a night of drinking and performing in Austin, Texas; and a radio interview during which Van Zandt remembers Foley.
Foley, born Michael David Fuller in Malvern, Arkansas, lived in many places, including Austin; Dallas; San Antonio; Atlanta; Memphis, Tennessee; and Chicago. His better-known songs include “Clay Pigeons,” “If I Could Only Fly” and “Election Day.” He was shot to death in 1989 at age 39.
Although Foley worked in obscurity during his lifetime, his intimate, heartfelt songs have been revived by the Avett Brothers, Ryan Bingham, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, John Prine, Nanci Griffith and Lyle Lovett. Lucinda Williams’ “Drunken Angel” and Van Zandt’s “Blaze’s Blues” are tributes to Foley.