FWV Film Division Announces Mario Van Peebles to Direct Buddy Holly Feature Drama

by | Apr 4, 2024

LOS ANGELES (April 4, 2024) – Hollywood icon Mario Van Peebles has been tapped to direct “That’ll Be the Day,” the epic story of how Buddy Holly and other iconic musicians of the late 1950s helped birth rock ‘n’ roll and influence the cultural landscape, including the civil rights movement.  The film, named after one of Holly’s most renowned  songs, intertwines music with the soundtrack and zeitgeist of the era, reflecting the period’s vibrant spirit.

Music has always been central to Van Peebles’ work, from his 1991 gangster classic NEW JACK CITY to his work on WU-TANG: AN AMERICAN SAGA, which he co-executive produced for Hulu. Van Peebles is currently writing a musical stage tribute to his legendary father Melvin Van Peebles, to be performed at NYC’s Lincoln Center later this year. 

“America’s tumultuous cultural melting pot has produced transcendent musical talent, including Buddy Holly, who was our first bad ass rock ’n’ roll nerd,” said Van Peebles. 

His latest film, OUTLAW POSSE – a western starring Edward James Olmos, Whoopi Goldberg, Cedric the Entertainer and John Caroll Lynch — which Van Peebles wrote, directed and starred in – is now out in theatres. His award winning 2003 docudrama BAADASSSSS! pays homage to his father’s groundbreaking film SWEET SWEETBACK’S BAADASSSSS SONG. 

Producers Rick French (NOT WITHOUT HOPE, FOUR DOWN) of Prix Productions and Stuart Benjamin (RAY, LA BAMBA) of Stuart Benjamin Productions, in collaboration with STX, have meticulously approached THAT’LL BE THE DAY, curating a creative tribute true to the spirt of the era and its music. The screenplay was written by Patrick Shanahan and Matthew Benjamin, with additional material written by Van Peebles. The script is based on a story by French and Stephen Easley, general counsel to the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation. 

BMG, which manages the Buddy Holly estate and controls the rights to the Holly music publishing catalog in the U.S., provided development funding for the project. Easley, David Hirshland and Peter Bradley, Jr. of The Buddy Holly Educational Foundation are executive producers. Maria Elena Holly, widow of Buddy Holly, is an associate producer. Patrick Shanahan and Matthew Benjamin are co-producers. Annie Herndon is overseeing the project for STX.

Benjamin has a long history with musical biopics. In 1987 he produced the music drama LA BAMBA starring Lou Diamond Phillips, which chronicled the rise of a young Ritchie Valens, who died along with Holly and J.P Richardson (The Big Bopper), in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa on February 3, 1959. He later produced RAY, a biopic that explored the life and career of the legendary Ray Charles, which starred Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington and Regina King. He received an Oscar nomination for the film and also took home a GRAMMY for the film’s soundtrack. 

Van Peebles and French are both represented by Buchwald, Benjamin is represented by the Johnson & Johnson law firm.

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