So happy to hear William Hurt is set to play Greg Allman in Midnight Rider, the biopic based on Allman's memoir My Cross to Bear. Hurt will play the older Allman while All-American Rejects' Tyson Ritter will play Allman the younger. Obvious I know, except that the William Hurt I see in my mind's eye is the young actor of the 1980's. Hurt was just thirty when he made his 1980 debut as an abnormal psych professor experimenting with sensory deprivation, flotation tanks and psychotropic drugs in Ken Russell's bold and somewhat bizarre Altered States. Based on Paddy Chayefsky's eponymous novel; the author also wrote the script. Notably Chayefsky had his name removed from the credits due to disputes with director Russell. The part earned newcomer Hurt, Golden Globe's "New Star of the Year" nod, which was followed by the incredibly sexy Lawrence Kasdan-directed Body Heat opposite the incredibly sexy Kathleen Turner.
BTW, you millennials and the like, if you only know Kathleen Turner as Chandler's dress-wearing dad in Friends, you must watch Body Heat. Heat is the word and it seriously sizzles; they literally drip with desire.
Hurt followed that by working with Kasdan again, playing Nick (above, center) the wounded Viet Nam vet in my generation's beloved The Big Chill in 1983. Look at that face! The younger me would like to wipe that smirk off his face with a kiss; what can I tell you?
Hurt won an Oscar for his boundary pushing portrayal of the imprisoned homosexual Luis Molina opposite Raul Julia in 1985's Kiss of the Spider Woman, predating Jared Leto's luminous Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club by almost 30 years.
And in 1986 Hurt was irrepressibly charming and sexy even while playing the entitled idiot in Broadcast News. The actor earned another Oscar nomination for his work alongside the also nominated Holly Hunter, and of course, Albert Brooks.
He was nominated again in 1987 for Children of a Lesser God, playing a hearing speech pathologist to Marlee Matlin's deaf cleaning woman. The two become romantically involved, while Hurt didn't win, his ladylove did. Marlee Matlin took home a win for Best Actress, the only deaf actress to have ever won the award.
In 1988 Hurt teamed up with Kasdan for the third time in the adaptation of Ann Tyler's The Accidental Tourist costarring Geena Davis. The third time was not the charm for most critics but I loved the book and recall enjoying the movie. By that point in my relationship with the mellow-voiced deliciously slow-talking actor with the already thinning, flyaway blond locks, I was a loyal fan. The Hurt I saw onscreen in the 80's excited me not so much for what he did but for what he didn't do, for what he held inside, his thoughts flickering just behind that small contained smile. But when he beamed, man he beamed! Full-on.
And then came the 90's and that was pretty much it for my personal romance with Hurt. My marriage and the birth of my son having a bit to do with that - I don't think I saw a movie made specifically for grown ups the entire decade. It's not as though the actor ever stopped working though; he's been at it for over three decades and in 2006 earned another Oscar nomination for The History of Violence.
Since shooting for Midnight Rider commences in the beautiful Savannah, Georgia this February, we may get to see it later in 2014, surely early in 2015 at the latest. I'll post it to Movies Based on Books 2014 when I hear.
I haven't read the book - true confession; I'll wait for the film - but the story sounds like the typical rise to fame with the almost inevitable downfall and drug abuse, with Gregg Allman at sixty-plus finally realizing it was time to turn things around if he wanted to keep living.
The musician has been heavily involved in the development of the project; he told Rolling Stone that "he has veto rights on the script and is working hard to ensure that the film gets the story right." A point of view The Allman Brothers Band fans will appreciate. Wyatt Russell, the son of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, is set to play brother Duane, who died tragically early in his own and the band's life.
Tyson Ritter, Gregg Allman and Wyatt Russell
Casting wise, Ritter looks like an good enough physical match for Allman and he certainly has the music cred. Going back to the 70's with the Allman Brothers could really rock -especially for Allman Bro fans; for now I'm content to go back to the 80's with Hurt!
2/21/2015: As you may know production on this film ceased with the tragic death of camera assistant Sarah Jones, due to possible negligence by the production company, when the film began shooting in Georgia, one year ago.
Read this Deadline report filed 2/19/2015 for the latest.