A new documentary is in the works on the life of Billy Preston, the legendary keyboardist and musician who worked with everyone from the Rolling Stones, Little Richard and Barbra Streisand and was among the several Fab Four associates dubbed the “Fifth Beatle.”
The untitled documentary film will be directed by Emmy-winner Paris Barclay, known for his work on “In Treatment,” “Glee” and “Sons of Anarchy,” and produced by Stephanie Allain through her Homegrown Pictures along with White Horse Pictures. Cheo Hodari Coker is writing the film alongside Barclay.
Preston died in 2006 but was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this past weekend. The untitled documentary will explore how Preston came to know the Beatles before they were famous and chart his career performing with legends like Little Richard early in his career before ultimately playing with the Beatles on their “Let it Be” and “Abbey Road” albums.
He’s the only other musician other than the Fab Four to be credited as a songwriter on one of their albums, and he’ll also be featured in Peter Jackson’s upcoming “The Beatles: Get Back” documentary event for Disney+. Preston also co-wrote Joe Cocker’s hit “You Are So Beautiful” and had his own string of No. 1 solo hits as a Grammy-winning artist and as a gospel musician. But the film will also grapple with his own personal journey of self-love and acceptance that took him years to discover.
The producers on the untitled Billy Preston film include Homegrown’s Allain, White Horse’s Jeanne Elfant Festa and Nigel Sinclair. Executive producers are Barclay, Daniel Shaw, G. Marq Roswell, Olivia Harrison, Jonathan Clyde and White Horse Pictures’ Nicholas Ferrall and Cassidy Hartmann. Coker is co-producing and Erikka Yancy serves as the film’s supervising producer.
The film is a presentation of Concord Originals alongside Impact Partners, Chicago Media Project, and Play/Action Pictures, who present in association with, Polygram Entertainment, Dave Knott, and Sobey Road Entertainment. Serving as executive producers are Scott Pascucci, Sophia Dilley, Charles Hopkins, Jenny Raskin, Steve Cohen, Paula Froehle, Geralyn White Dreyfous, Lauren and John Driscoll and Patty Quillin, Jeffrey Lurie, Marie Therese Guirgis, Jody Gerson, Bruce Resnikoff, Dave Knott, John Keller, Brad and Debbie Buss and Andrew Trapani. Serving as co-executive producers are Lauren Haber, Kelsey Koenig, Jane Solomon, Bob Valentine and Wesley Adams.
“A singular figure in music history, Billy Preston lent his genius to elevate the most celebrated artists of the 20th Century. Grateful to work with this team, using this soundtrack to explore his personal journey and finally place him front and center,” Allain said in a statement.
“The Billy Preston we know was an incomparable musician,” Barclay said. “But the Billy we’ll see in this documentary was a mass of contradictions. I’m thrilled to dig deeper into the complex man under the Afro, and behind the famous smile.”
The filmmakers are also making a call out to anybody who knew Billy Preston or who worked with him, and may have recordings, photographs or personal memories to make contact. The project website is www.BillyPrestonDoc.com.
UTA Independent Film Group with White Horse Pictures helped raise the funding and White Horse Pictures with UTA will be representing the picture for sales.
Homegrown is repped by UTA, First Artists and Marcy Morris. Barclay is represented by ICM and Lovett Management. Cheo Hodari Coker is represented by CAA, Literate, and Darrell D. Miller of Fox Rothschild.
Deadline first reported the news.