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Billy Bob Thornton Producing ZZ Top Biopic, Sources Say

Billys Gibbons (left) and Bob Thornton at Fitzgerald's, December 2009
Billys Gibbons (left) and Bob Thornton at Fitzgerald's, December 2009
Craig Hlavaty

How how how how will this not be Rocks Off's favorite movie of all time after it comes out? If the rumors coming out of Hollywood and last month's SXSW conference are true, the story of that Lil' Ol' Band from Texas, ZZ Top, is coming to the big screen within the next two years with the help of one of the trio's biggest fans - actor and fellow Texan Billy Bob Thornton.

According to reports coming from the Thornton camp, namely his production company that is just now readying Willie Nelson documentary The King of Luck for distribution, they have just now optioned the rights for the ZZ Top story for not only a feature film but possibly a documentary not unlike Luck.

Thornton has been a longtime friend of the band, as well as a member of Houston-area ZZ cover band Tres Hombres in the early '80s. Billy Gibbons himself made an appearance at the last Houston appearance by Thornton's band the Boxmasters, at Fitzgerald's in December 2009.

Tentatively titled Rough Boys, the ZZ Top picture seems to be on the fast track to production, with Thornton's only title thus far being Executive Producer. The last word coming out of SXSW was that Austin-based director Robert Rodriguez is eying the script, which scribes just turned in to the Thornton camp.

Jimi Hendrix with the Moving Sidewalks
Jimi Hendrix with the Moving Sidewalks

This would be a perfect gig for Rodriguez, who used ZZ's "She's Just Killing Me" in 1996's From Dusk Til Dawn and prefers to make his movies, including last year's controversial Machete, in and around Austin.

As the creative team gets into gear, Thornton and his fellow producers have already been making some casting decisions, big and small. Rocks Off's sources inside the Thornton camp say that Rough Boys will begin just before the Moving Sidewalks and American Blues morphed into ZZ Top, and run through the group's mid-'80s commercial peak.

Plenty of Texas and international rock and rollers of the day are listed on the pre-production casting sheets.

 

Almost Famous actor Patrick Fugit has already been lined up in a smaller role as Thirteenth Floor Elevators front man Roky Erickson. Bill Ham, ZZ's longtime manager and producer, will be played by My Name Is Earl's Ethan Suplee. The Sidewalks' legendary Houston shows supporting Jimi Hendrix and the Doors are playing a big role in the most recent draft of the working script.

The Social Network's Joseph Mazzello, whom you may also remember from 1993's Jurassic Park, has signed on to play drummer Frank Beard. For Gibbons and Dusty Hill, we have heard that the casting directors are looking into younger actors and musicians who can basically hide behind grizzly beards for most of the action, and who know their way around a guitar.

In a move that will thrill, startle and possibly anger some, Kings of Leon lead singer Caleb Followill has taken a meeting with the production team. Honestly, he does favor Gibbons - at least in ZZ's early days - and we know how he looks with a beard covering his face. As long as Russell Brand doesn't play longtime Top cheerleader Keith Richards, this film can do no wrong.

Hopefully by the end of this special day, we will get even more confirmation on details of the film. Maybe we can sneak in a word with Followill himself before the Kings' performance at Saturday's Big Dance Concert Series at Discovery Green.


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