The family of Sam Cooke has signed off on a deal that will bring an authorized biopic about the “A Change Is Gonna Come” singer to the big screen. However, don’t expect a conventional music biography like the Johnny Cash film I Walk the Line and the James Brown homage Get On Up. Instead, the Cooke family and producer Romeo Antonio say their film is being scripted as a “murder-mystery” that takes a deeper look into the strange circumstances surrounding Cooke’s 1964 death.
“For years, people have been coming at us to do a movie about Sam. But [Antonio] was the first person who sounded like he wanted what we wanted: the truth to come out about my uncle and his death,” Eugene Jamison, Cooke’s cousin, told The Hollywood Reporter. Jamison and Sam’s younger brother L.C. Cooke will serve as consultants on the Cooke biopic, which will also have access to family documents. Antonio also interviewed Cooke’s assistant Zelda Samuels and worked with Cooke biographer B.G. Rhule to prepare for the film.
Cooke was shot dead at the age of 33 by motel manager Bertha Franklin following a physical altercation at a South Los Angeles motel. Franklin wasn’t charged in the incident; Cooke’s death was deemed a “justifiable homicide” since he was the aggressor, according to witness testimony. Earlier that night, a different woman called police saying she was almost kidnapped by Cooke.
The singer’s family has long claimed that Cooke’s death was a part of a bigger conspiracy because of his active role in the civil rights movement as well as his connection to “mob-connected music executives.” Antonio, a former police officer, tells The Hollywood Reporter that he’s treating the film “like a murder investigation.”
According to the film’s IMDb page, the biopic’s current working title is Sam Cooke: The Truth. So far, the only actor cast in the film is Christopher Warren, who will portray “Work With Me, Annie” singer and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Hank Ballard.