Leonardo DiCaprio to Play Sun Records Icon in Film

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Sam Phillips with his discovery, Elvis Presley

Sam Phillips with his discovery, Elvis Presley

Leonardo DiCaprio will play Sun Records founder Sam Phillips in a forthcoming biopic, according to multiple news reports. Phillips was responsible for launching the careers of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich and many other pioneers of rock ’n’ roll, country, gospel and blues in the 1950s via his independent Memphis-based label.

The film, as yet untitled, will be based on the biography Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ’N’ Roll, written by Peter Guralnick, who will serve as a co-producer along with DiCaprio and Mick Jagger. (Jagger was also a producer of the ill-fated HBO music drama Vinyl.)

Jerry Lee Lewis 45 on Sun Records

Jerry Lee Lewis 45 on Sun Records

Phillips, a charter inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, launched Sun in 1952 and initially recorded blues artists such as Howlin’ Wolf and Ike Turner before turning his attention to artists such as Presley and Cash. Over its 16 years, the company released 226 singles, including Presley’s first sides in 1954. Elvis moved on to RCA Victor Records two years later, and all of Phillips’ other major stars also left for bigger companies, but Phillips continued to produce records.

“We’re all crazy,” Phillips once said of himself and the artists he produced. “But it’s a type of insanity that borders on genius. I really feel that. To be as free as you have to be for any kind of music, you almost have to be in another dimension. And to do the broad expanse of rock and roll takes an element of mind expansion that people less creative would term insanity.”

Leonardo DiCaprio (from his Facebook page)

Leonardo DiCaprio (from his Facebook page)

DiCaprio’s company Appian Way secured the rights to the Phillips biography and he recently announced his intention to star in the film, but DiCaprio gave no time frame on its eventual release. The actor is currently involved in other films, including a climate change documentary titled Before the Flood, with music by Trent Reznor.

Neither a director nor a screenwriter have been attached to the project as of yet. Although DiCaprio plans to star as Phillips, the film would also need to cast actors as Presley, Lewis, Cash and the other artists Phillips nurtured.

Related: BCB’s review of Guralnick’s Phillips bio

Watch Sam Phillips talk about Elvis Presley

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