Mario Van Peebles to Direct ‘That’ll Be the Day,’ Drama About Buddy Holly and the Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll (EXCLUSIVE)

Mario Van Peebles has been tapped to direct “That’ll Be the Day,” the story of how Buddy Holly and other musicians of the late 1950s helped give birth to rock ‘n’ roll and influence the wider societal and cultural landscape, including the civil rights movement.

Music has been central to much of Van Peebles’ work, from his 1991 gangster movie “New Jack City” to his work on “Wu-Tang: An American Saga,” which he co-executive produced for Hulu. Van Peebles is currently writing a musical stage tribute to his father Melvin Van Peebles, to be performed at New York City’s Lincoln Center later this year.

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“America’s tumultuous cultural melting pot has produced transcendent musical talent, including Buddy Holly, who was our first bad ass rock ’n’ roll nerd,” Van Peebles said in a statement.

His 2003 docudrama “Baadasssss!” pays homage to his father’s groundbreaking film “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.” His latest film, “Outlaw Posse” – a Western starring Edward James Olmos, Whoopi Goldberg, Cedric the Entertainer and John Caroll Lynch – which Van Peebles wrote, directed and starred in – is out now in theaters.

The producers of “That’ll Be the Day” are Rick French (“Not Without Hope,” “Four Down”) of Prix Productions and Stuart Benjamin (“Ray,” “La Bamba”) of Stuart Benjamin Productions, working in collaboration with STX.

The screenplay was written by Patrick Shanahan and Matthew Benjamin, with additional material written by Van Peebles. The script is based on a story by French and Stephen Easley, general counsel to the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation.

BMG – which manages the Buddy Holly estate and controls the rights to the Holly music publishing catalog in the U.S. – provided development funding for the project. Easley, David Hirshland and Peter Bradley, Jr. of the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation are executive producers. Maria Elena Holly, widow of Buddy Holly, is an associate producer. Shanahan and Matthew Benjamin are co-producers. Annie Herndon is overseeing the project for STX.

Benjamin has a long history with musical biopics. In 1987, he produced the music drama “La Bamba,” starring Lou Diamond Phillips, which chronicled the rise of a young Ritchie Valens, who died along with Holly and J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper) in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa on Feb. 3, 1959. Benjamin later produced “Ray,” a biopic that explored the life and career of Ray Charles, which starred Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington and Regina King. He received an Oscar nomination for the film and also took home a Grammy for the film’s soundtrack.

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