Ray Charles' life story is making its way to the big screen, and it may even include the R&B legend playing himself.
"Unchain My Heart: The Ray Charles Story" will likely begin shooting in fall, according to Stuart Benjamin, executive vice president of Crusader Entertainment. Benjamin, who has been friends with Charles since 1988, said the 70-year-old singer might play himself in the present day, with his life story being told in flashbacks.
"Beyond his music, beyond the fact that he's a legend, it's just a great story," said Benjamin, who also worked on the 1987 Ritchie Valens biopic "La Bamba." He added that the company will likely cast a relative unknown for the part of the younger Charles, in the tradition of "La Bamba" (Lou Diamond Phillips) and "The Buddy Holly Story" (Gary Busey).
In addition to his musical achievements, which include the landmark album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (1962) as well as such hit singles as "I've Got a Woman" and "What'd I Say," Charles' colorful and often tragic life is the kind of story ripe for a juicy film bio. The singer lost his sight to glaucoma at age 7, began using heroin at age 16, and was eventually busted for possession in 1965.
After he cleaned up, he devoted much of his nonmusical energy to civil rights and other humanitarian causes, donating money to Martin Luther King Jr. and establishing the Ray Charles Robinson Foundation for Hearing Disorders in 1987 with a $1 million endowment.