“Blaze” is coming home.
Following the film’s January debut at the Sundance Film Festival and March screening at South By Southwest, the Louisiana International Film Festival is the next stop for “Blaze.”
The locally shot, Ethan Hawke-directed biopic about country singer-songwriter Blaze Foley is the festival’s opening night film. The screening starts at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Cinemark Perkins Rowe and XD, and it includes a Q&A with the movie’s star, Ben Dickey, and co-writer Sybil Rosen. After Thursday's screening, Dickey will perform with his band, The Beaver Bayou Boys.
“We’re super excited about the Louisiana premiere because Louisiana is the film’s spiritual home,” said Jake Seal, one the film’s producers and owner of Village Studios in Jackson. “We have a lot of local people to thank and invite to enjoy the film.”
There is reason to celebrate at the Louisiana screening, too. Last week, Sundance Selects acquired the U.S. rights for “Blaze.” The purchase comes after an impressive showing at Sundance. There, Dickey, a first-time actor and longtime singer-songwriter who has lived in Caddo Parish since 2014, won the Special Jury Award for his performance.
Foley, an Arkansas native who lived in many places, never achieved fame in his lifetime. At 39, he was shot to death in Austin, Texas, in 1989. Variety reports that the film recounts Foley’s love affair with Rosen, his final show, performed in a nearly empty honky-tonk, and how his death affected his friends, fans and enemies.
Hawke and Seal previously worked together for the locally-shot all-star western “The Magnificent Seven” and the Chet Baker biopic “Born to Be Blue.” They began tossing ideas for films back and forth near the end of “Magnificent Seven.” Initially, they planned to make a film adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ 1953 play, “Camino Real.” When that project fell through, Hawke suggested the Foley biopic.
Hawke envisioned a small film that could be shot in the Village Studio bar and a treehouse built in one of the studio grounds’ trees. But the “Blaze” script grew into something much bigger.
“It got huge and sweeping,” Seal said.
Filming for “Blaze” ran from late 2016 to mid-January 2017. The production used 18 sets built at Village Studio and more than 40 locations in Jackson, St. Francisville, Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The film cast 100 speaking parts and 500 extras.
That cast includes 2018 Oscar winner Sam Rockwell, Alia Shawkat, Steve Zahn, Kris Kristofferson and Lloyd “Teddy” Johnson, owner of Teddy’s Juke Joint in Zachary. Johnson plays Foley’s best friend, Concho.
“We punched above our weight,” Seal said of the production and cast.
Hawke’s choice of Dickey to play Foley delighted Seal.
“Ben is the best storyteller I’ve ever heard,” Seal said. “I thought he would get an award at Sundance, and he did. His performance is something really special, and his music in the film is incredible. It’s huge for Ben, the beginning of a completely different journey.”
Director, co-writer and producer Hawke’s passion for “Blaze” affected everyone on the set, Seal added.
“Ethan’s love for every frame, every moment, action and word permeates the entire film," Seal said. "It turned out better than any of us could have expected or had the arrogance to presume.”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 19
WHERE: Cinemark Perkins Rowe and XD, 10000 Perkins Rowe #125, Baton Rouge