B.B. King Estate Denies Upcoming Film is a Biopic, Eyes Kenan Thompson to Star

The late bluesman’s estate throws a wrench into the recent reveal of a film about the icon’s life.

It appears Wendell Pierce may have jumped the gun (again) in announcing he was set to star as the late B.B. King in an upcoming biopic treatment.

According to TMZKing’s estate is denying the film is a biopic. And moreover, that Pierce has not been approved, regardless of his they end up classifying it. “I think Mr. Pierce misspoke,” says Vassal Benford, the chairman of King’s estate who challenged Pierce’s claim that he was cast as the late bluesman in a film about King’s life. Benford insisted the estate was still considering actors to play King in the film, naming Saturday Night Live’s Kenan Thompson as a contender for the role.

All of this, of course, throws a massive wrench in the recent reveal that a big-screen project centered on the iconic bluesman had been reborn after nearly a decade of delays, a failed Kickstarter campaign, and a lawsuit from King estate that spurred a title change. Originally announced in 2011, The Thrill is On (fka B.B. King & I,) was to tell the story of King’s relationship with drummer Michael Zanetis, who is directing the film. However, King’s estate filed a cease-and-desist order against Zanetis in the following year, insisting King’s name be removed from the title. Zanetis countersued, but clearly was unable to best the estate, despite claiming that both he and Pierce received the King’s blessing on the film before his passing in 2015.

In the days after his announcement of the film’s revival, Pierce walked back some of his initial enthusiasm. “The Estate of [B.B. King] has requested I clarify the film THE THRILL IS ON is not a biopic in the traditional sense. It is a dramatized version of a real-life friendship story in the spirit of the film ROUND MIDNIGHT,” Pierce wrote in a follow-up tweet on Thursday (see below.)

Clearly, nobody’s on the same page here. Hold tight for updates on the project as things get sorted in the weeks and months ahead.


Zo is a staff writer at Okayplayer where he covers music.

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