Forest Whitaker to direct and star in Louis Armstrong biopic

October 13, 2008  |  7:26am
Since Forest Whitaker's sensational, Oscar-winning turn as the creepy, charismatic and sometimes-cannibalistic Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland, he's starred in a bunch of less-than-stellar efforts like Vantage Point and Street Kings. But it looks like he's found a role that will make good on his potential: Whitaker will direct and star in a biopic of the infamous scat-singing, scratchy-voiced virtuoso Louis Armstrong.

The film, perhaps predictably titled What a Wonderful World, will begin shooting next summer in New Orleans, after a number of Whitaker's current projects have wrapped, like his dramedy with Renée Zellweger, My Own Love Song. The film has the blessing from the executive of the Armstrong estate, Oscar Cohen, who will grant Whitaker access to the trumpeter's elusive archives. Coincidentally, Armstrong will not be the first jazz icon Whitaker has portrayed. He played saxophonist Charlie Parker in Clint Eastwood's 1988 film Bird. Who's next, Miles Davis? (If so, Whitaker better hurry before Don Cheadle beats him to the punch.)

Wonderful World will be Whitaker's first directorial effort since the 2004's First Daughter (the presidential-child themed movie with Katie Holmes, not the one with Mandy Moore). Whitaker's other directing efforts include Hope Floats and Waiting to Exhale, virtually guaranteeing that whatever the outcome, What a Wonderful World will be his best-helmed film so far.

Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong died in 1971, suffering a heart attack after playing a show. He had this particularly heartfelt and candid comment to say shortly before his death: "I think I had a beautiful life. I didn't wish for anything that I couldn't get and I got pretty near everything I wanted because I worked for it." What a wonderful world, indeed.

Whitaker will next be seen in the sports drama Hurricane Season, due Christmas day. He will also voice a character in Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are.

Related links:
Feature: The Art House Powerhouse 100
Review: Vantage Point
News: Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are back on for 2009

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