Paramount Buys ‘Love In Vain’ Pitch About Blues Pioneer Robert Johnson, ‘Spider-Verse’s Peter Ramsey Directing

L to R: Peter Ramsey, Robert Johnson, Krystin Ver Linden. Courtesy

EXCLUSIVE: We hear that Paramount has bought the pitch Love In Vain, an unconventional biopic centering around Blues music pioneer Robert Johnson.

Lorenzo di Bonaventura Shutterstock

Peter Ramsey, after directing the Oscar-and-Golden-Globe winning Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse and Dreamworks Animation’s Rise of the Guardians, will make his live-action feature directorial debut with Love in Vain off Krystin Ver Linden’s screenplay. Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Mike Menchel and multi-Grammy winning and platinum recording artist Lionel Richie are producing. The trio are also producing and in development on the untitled Sammy Davis Jr. biopic.

Johnson’s singing, guitar playing and songwriting skills during the 1930s later influenced a generation of musicians including Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Robert Plant. The Mississippi native had a poorly documented life and death, living a short life until the age of 27. In fact, some record producers such as John Hammond were unaware that Johnson had even died; Hammond trying to seek the singer out for a Carnegie Hall concert following Johnson’s death. This gave rise to the legend that Johnson sold his soul to the devil at a local crossroads to achieve musical success. He is revered as the inventor of the Delta Blues style. Playing mostly street corners and juke joints during his career, Johnson’s recordings were limited yielding 29 distinct songs recorded by famed Country Music Hall of Fame producer Don Law. These songs, recorded at a low fidelity, were released as 10-inch, 78 rpm singles from 1937–1938.  Johnson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in its first induction ceremony, in 1986, as an early influence on rock and roll. He was also awarded a posthumous Grammy Award in 1991 for The Complete Recordings, a 1990 compilation album. His single “Cross Road Blues” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998, and he was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

Ver Linden recently sold her 2018 Black List script Ride to Lionsgate with Jill Soloway attached to direct. She’s set to write and direct Alice, a slavery drama that will be produced and co-financed by Stampede and Steel Springs Pictures. She also wrote the script for the biopic Ashe, about tennis great Arthur Ashe.

Ramsey is the first African American to direct a major studio animated feature with  Rise of the Guardians. He is repped by Verve and Weintraub Tobin. Ver Linden is repped by Verve and Hansen Jacobson.

di Bonaventura’s Infinite from Antoine Fuqua is currently filming as well as G.I. Joe spinoff Snake Eyes. Also upcoming for the producer is the AGC Studios feature The Secrets We Keep. 

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