Blue Moon of Kentucky – Bill Monroe biopic still a go

Michael Shannon with Richard D. Smith, author of Can’t You Hear Me Callin’

The Bill Monroe biopic, first announced back in 2012 and based on the Richard D. Smith book, Can’t You Hear Me Callin’, is very much still an ongoing project. In an article last week on the new Gibson Bill Monroe F-5 mandolin, we erroneously indicated that the film project had been abandoned, which brought a quick reply from the producer, Trevor Jolly, to the contrary.

So we are delighted to share that Blue Moon of Kentucky, a movie about the life of Bill Monroe, is still very an ongoing venture. Jolly and his team are hard at work completing a script, finalizing casting, and raising the necessary funds for such a large-scale independent film.

When this was first announced in 2012, there was a great deal of buzz in the Hollywood community, as a number of A-list stars had been associated with the film, but as other commitments in their careers caused them to pull back, it seemed that the movie was dead.

But No!, as Trevor tells us. They are moving ahead as quickly as they can, dealing with the many intricacies and legalities required for a major motion picture. And, he tells us, the delay may actually prove to be a benefit, as they can now look at the possibility of reworking their plans for Blue Moon of Kentucky as a 90 minute feature film, and look at the possibility of rewriting it as a serial for streaming services like Netflix or Amazon.

So when he saw our story reporting that the project was moot, he reached out right away.

“It was a bit disconcerting to discover that the project that I and many others have been committed to for almost the past decade, has been ‘abandoned.’ It’s perhaps understandable, though, because a movie in the development stage is often perceived as forgotten.

You could consider it somewhat akin to a baby developing in the womb, where there may be unanticipated complications and lengthy periods of no discernible movement. However, the ongoing tasks of financing, scriptwriting, casting, choosing a director, locations, music recording, music rights, and legal affairs, are just a few of the tasks at hand. Each one is demanding on its own.

All components are evolving and coalescing in a way none of us could have imagined, even five years ago. For instance, in addition to the motion picture, we are in the fortunate position now of considering developing Blue Moon of Kentucky as a limited series, to be transmitted via one of the popular streaming providers.”

Jolly has his star at the ready, Michael Shannon, who he tells us has the physical stature to properly conduct himself as Bill Monroe. Plus he is a musician, so the musical scenes can convey the verisimilitude required to sell the part. Shannon has appeared in several successful films (Take Shelter, Vanilla Sky, Pearl Harbor), and is eager to get started portraying Big Mon.

In their most recent communication with Michael’s people, they told Trevor that, “When you’re ready to shoot, Michael will be ready.”

A musical score is nearly complete, with T-Bone Burnett and Ronnie McCoury producing. Artists featured include Earl Scruggs, Ralph Stanley, Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill, Chris Thile, Del McCoury, and many others.

It sounds as though this project is in very good hands. Jolly has worked for many years in Hollywood, and has credits in major hits like American Beauty, Lost, and Seeking Justice.

Let’s all hope to see Blue Moon of Kentucky finished in the very near future. The story of Bill Monroe and bluegrass music is begging for this sort of treatment.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.