EXCLUSIVE: The estate of iconic singer Roy Orbison has pledged its cooperation in The Big O: Roy Orbison, setting up what will be the first estate-authorized movie biopic. Ray Gideon & Bruce Evans have been set to write the script. It will be a family affair: Marty Katz will produce with Alex Orbison and Roy Orbison Jr, and Wesley Orbison will be exec producer along with Chuck Fleckenstein and Ron Moore. Those are the surviving children of the singer, whose Roy’s Boys LLC has overseen their father’s legacy since the 2011 death of the singer’s widow, Barbara Orbison. The movie package includes rights to virtually all of Orbison’s songs and recordings, most of which he wrote or co-wrote.
Gideon & Evans’ credits include Stand by Me, Starman and Mr. Brooks, the latter of which Evans directed. In Orbison, they are tackling a story full of tragedy and triumph for a man whose soaring, angelic voice was the envy of Bruce Springsteen and so many others. The Texas-raised singer made his mark on the national music scene in 1956 with “Ooby Dooby,” a single released by Sun Records, where Orbison’s labelmates were Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis. He toured constantly in the U.S. and abroad, headlined over the Beatles in the UK andscored Top 10 hits that included “Crying,” “Only the Lonely,” “In Dreams,” “Dream Baby,” “Running Scared” and “Oh, Pretty Woman” — the latter two of which topped the U.S. charts.
And then his life upended in the ’60s. His wife Claudette died in a motorcycle crash, and sons Roy DeWayne Orbison and Anthony King Orbison died in a house fire. His career slumped. While that might have seemed like the end, Orbison rebuilt his life and career. He married Barbara, and his music got back on track when David Lynch showcased it in Blue Velvet. That led to the televised concert Roy Orbison & Friends: A Black & White Night, in which Orbison sang with Springsteen, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, k.d. Lang and others. Orbison then joined Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and George Harrison in the super group Traveling Wilburys. After their first album went triple platinum, Orbison worked on his solo comeback album Mystery Girl. Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack at age 52, before the album release which included You’ve Got It, his first Top 10 hit in 25 years.
His sons are obviously bullish. “My dad’s story is a fantastic journey,” said Alex Orbison. “He was so inspiring as a person because, after everything he had been through, good and bad, he still had a positive outlook on life, and was kind and wonderful. The movie will mirror a Roy Orbison song: having triumph and tragedy, sometimes losing the girl and sometimes getting the girl, and ending on a high note. Our father’s life story has an undeniably cinematic quality to it. We feel that the telling of it is in extraordinarily capable hands with Bruce and Ray and the overall team that will bring The Big O Finally to the screen.”
The scribes are repped by David Styne’s Wicked Curve with attorney Harold Brown of Gang, Tyre.