Former Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer Artimus Pyle will co-write and produce a biopic about his life with the Southern rock band. The film, tentatively titled Free Bird, also focuses on one of the music’s most tragic moments: The 1977 plane crash that claimed the lives of six people, including his friend and Skynyrd frontman Ronnie Van Zant.
“This film’s story — MY story — is not just about the plane crash but also about my personal relationship with the genius that was Ronnie Van Zant, whom I loved like a brother and still miss to this day,” Pyle said of the film in a statement. Speaking to Deadline, Pyle added, “This is a much deserved movie for the fans of Skynyrd.”
Pyle, who served as Skynyrd’s drummer from 1974 to 1991 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, penned the Free Bird script with the film’s director Jared Cohn. Cleopatra Films will produce the film, which is scheduled to go into production later this year.
As this film is not an authorized Lynyrd Skynyrd biopic and instead Pyle’s life story, producers have not yet secured the rights to the band’s music. For now, Free Bird will feature original musical contributions from Pyle.
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Pyle also said of the film, “We want this to be a good movie that tells a very passionate, intimate story about the music and the band and a rise and fall that happened so suddenly. I want the movie to portray my band members the way they were: real, funny people who loved the music, loved the success that allowed us to be able to travel the world and play for kings and queens all over this planet.”
During the writing of the film, Pyle spent 20 hours remembering every detail of the 1977 crash. “Of course, there is the tragedy, us being on this airplane that ran out of fuel after a performance in Greenville South Carolina that became the last place Ronnie Van Zant ever sang ‘Free Bird.’ It’s incredibly personal and passionate to me and I want the movie going public to be able to share the laughs and the tears.”