Ethan Hawke's 'Blaze' explores the tragic, unfulfilled life of country musician Blaze Foley
The trailer for Ethan Hawke's 'Blaze' is out and the film explores the life of Blaze Foley, the Texas country musician whose life was tragically cut short
Four-time Academy Award-nominated actor Ethan Hawke is back on the directorial chair with 'Blaze,' a biographical drama film based on the life of Texas country musician Blaze Foley. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this past January to rave reviews from critics as well as audiences and stars Ben Dickey (The Kid) in the titular role of Foley. The supporting cast includes the likes of Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development) as Sybil Rosen, Foley’s lover, Sam Rockwell (Seven Psychopaths), and Steve Zahn (War for the Planet of the Apes).
Distributed by IFC Films, the trailer for 'Blaze' promises to deliver the tragic but equally inspiring tale of Foley through the eyes of the musician and those around him.
Considered by many to be one of the most talented songwriters in the country scene in recent times, Foley was recognized just as much for his problems with alcoholism as he was for his musical genius. Hawke has made the singer's constant struggle with his demons the crux of the narrative.
As the trailer unfurls, a voice warns "Only one drink, big dog, don't want any shenanigans from you tonight. Don't make me regret it," introducing you to the enigma that was Foley. Born in Arkansas, he grew up in San Antonio, Texas, and gravitated towards music at an early age, performing with a gospel band called 'The Singing Fuller Family' with his mother, brother, and sisters. However, Foley's life changes forever after he meets Sybil.
His relationship with Sybil and their evolution from a doe-eyed couple to one that weathers every controversy and every roadblock is the other focus of 'Blaze,' with the trailer making references aplenty to the pair. "Are you going to be a star?" Sybil questions, to which Foley replies: "No, I'm going to be a legend."
So begins his nomadic journey in the quest for fame. Performances in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston follow with his entry into the Austin music scene also marking his descent down the spiral of alcoholism. Numerous attempts to get into songwriting compounded with the career pressure to succeed and the city's raving bar scene concocted the perfect storm that arguably laid waste to one of the most naturally talented artists to have never been. This is how Foley was condemned to the footnotes of music history rather than the index.
His penchant for songwriting was never in doubt, though his ability to take advantage of it was. A self-proclaimed 'Salesman of Songs,' a person explains: "He understood that if you're going to write a song, everyone's going to tell you that you have to live that song. But that's not it, you have to die a little," and poignantly so. His life and career, both, were punctuated by the worst luck imaginable; three of his studio albums disappeared or were stolen under inconspicuous circumstances and, from a musical standpoint, little of his legacy remains.
"I had a little of love," Foley says. "Enough to write a few songs." His words would prove prophetic. What did remain of his work saw him finally recognized as the country artist he had always strived to be. His close friend and confidante Townes Van Zandt, played by Charlie Sexton in the film, described him best when he had said "He's only gone crazy once. Decided to stay."
The trailer reveals so little and so much at the same time. Foley's unaccomplished career in music and his tragic death have become a part of folklore, with 'Blaze' looking to balance the numerous aspects that defined his persona and his image. It waxes lyrical about his astounding ability to write and live through his songs but also insists that his genius is equal parts fractured human being and equal parts facility.
Hawke has set the movie to a somber mood — dark, brooding lighting and just as heavy and hard-hitting dialogue — which is fittingly apt, all things taken into consideration. The distinct southern drawl combined with the folksy background score — Lucinda William's 'Drunken Angel' the ideal tribute as the trailer closes out — send a clear message as well: that, irrespective of his birth, Foley was Texas through and through.
Dickey's performance as Foley has been praised from all quarters, with critic Neil Allen raving: "This movie is all Foley, and the confidence in his words proves incredibly rewarding for Hawke as a cinematic storyteller himself." That view was mirrored by the panel of judges at the Sundance Film Festival who awarded Dickey the Special Jury Award for Achievement in Acting.
The screenplay for 'Blaze' was penned by Hawke and adapted from the novel 'Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze' by Sybil Rosen, who also helped co-write the film. It is scheduled to be released on September 7, 2018, by IFC Films.