Hollywood maestro Martin Scorsese is making a musical biopic about the Grateful Dead, with Jonah Hill starring as the iconic rock band’s frontman Jerry Garcia.
It is not clear what period of the band’s history the still-untitled movie will dramatise.
The Grateful Dead formed in the Bay area in 1965 and became one of the key symbols of the counterculture upon releasing a debut album in 1967 that was just as heavy on the members’ love for roots music as the psychedelia of the period.
Along with Garcia, founding members include Bob Weir, Ron McKernan, Phil Lesh and Bill Kreutzmann. Leagues of “Deadheads” flocked to see the ultimate “jam band” over a period of decades until Garcia’s death in 1995 brought an end to the band.
His passing and their break-up did surprisingly little to diminish the band’s enduring popularity. Garcia’s songs continued to be played by the offshoot group Dead and Company, which just wrapped its latest tour with a sold-out three-night stand at the Hollywood Bowl.
Hill shared the news on Instagram, captioning his post with prayer hands and skull emoji.
The movie is being developed at Apple, where Scorsese is currently working on his next film, ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’, a Western crime drama starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro and Jesse Plemons.
Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, whose credits include ‘The People v. O.J. Simpson’, ‘Ed Wood’ and ‘Dolemite Is My Name’, have been hired to pen the screenplay.
Surviving members of the Grateful Dead have apparently given the upcoming movie their blessing, with Weir, Kreutzmann, Lesh and Mickey Hart on board as executive producers. Trixie Garcia, the daughter of Jerry Garcia, and the band’s manager Bernie Cahill will also executive produce, along with Eric Eisner.
Additional producers include Hill’s partner Matt Dines through their company Strong Baby and Rick Yorn via LBI Entertainment.
Though perhaps best known for ‘Taxi Driver’, ‘Raging Bull’, ‘The King of Comedy’ and ‘Goodfellas’, Martin Scorsese has been involved in several high-profile music documentaries, from working on Michael Wadleigh’s 1970 documentary ‘Woodstock’ to directing 1978’s ‘The Last Waltz’, 2011’s ‘George Harrison: Living in the Material World’ and 2019’s ‘Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story’.
It’s not currently known when the movie will begin production, but Martin Scorsese is already well versed in the band’s history. In 2017, he executive-produced a six-part documentary series about the Grateful Dead titled ‘Long Strange Trip’.
In that project’s announcement, Scorsese called the Grateful Dead “more than just a band”.
Martin Scorsese effused: “They were their own planet, populated by millions of devoted fans.”