EXCLUSIVE: Paramount+ revealed earlier this week that it had a series adaptation of John Travolta movie Urban Cowboy in the works. Now, the wild, true story that inspired the 1980 film is also being developed for television.
The rise and fall of country music icon Mickey Gilley’s football field-sized Texan honky tonk is being set up as a limited series with Philip Levens, creator of Syfy miniseries Ascension and Smallville writer, serving as showrunner for a series that comes from Michael Becker of Worth producer Imprint Entertainment and Joel Carpenter of JC Productions.
The latter pair optioned Gilley’s life rights and will tell the story of what’s been described as the “the Studio54 of the West”, the center of the cowboy universe in 1978.
With a capacity of 6,000, the largest honky-tonk on the planet was frequented by an assortment of patrons that ranged from oilfield roughnecks to movie stars. It was the place to see and be seen until it all ended in accusations, threats and a suspicious fire that would leave the club in ashes.
The likes of Willie Nelson, George Jones, Waylon Jennings, Charlie Daniels, George Strait, Johnny Lee, Fats Domino, Charlie Pride, Loretta Lynn, Roseanne Cash, Ernest Tubb, and Emmylou Harris all made appearances at Gilley’s.
The series, which the producers describe as a mix of Walk The Line and Bohemian Rhapsody, will explore how Mickey, a struggling country music singer/songwriter partnered up with local club owner, Sherwood Cryer, on a rundown dancehall where blue-collar locals, billionaire oil tycoons, cattle barons, and some of the hottest names in music all mingled together.
Gilley, who grew up with cousins including Jerry Lee Lewis and prominent televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, had a tempestuous relationship with Cryer, a man who knew how to make money, but the pair fell out after the club took a downturn during the 1980s oil bust and Gilley filed a lawsuit to secure and protect the rights to the “Gilley’s” name.
Levens will write and serve as showrunner. Becker, Carpenter, Levins, Mickey Gilley and Taylor Moore will exec produce with Zach Farnum as associate producer.
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