Movie actor Sam Rockwell is set to play Merle Haggard in a new biopic coming from Amazon Studios. Rockwell is expected to do his own singing.
Deadline reports that Robin Bissell will direct the film, and he will write the script with Merle’s widow, Theresa Haggard, based on the Haggard memoir Sing Me Back Home.
The film will focus on his tumultuous rise from inmate who served three years at San Quentin – where he was among the prisoners who watched the first prison performance of Johnny Cash in a life-changing moment – to the clubs in Bakersfield, to Capitol Records in Los Angeles to becoming what Kris Kristofferson called “The greatest artist in American music history.”
Merle was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1994.
The movie covers his struggle to escape his checkered 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.
In 1972, Haggard was pardoned by California Governor Ronald Reagan.