If you've never heard of Blaze Foley, you wouldn't be the only one. The Texas country music legend never quite broke through to mainstream consciousness, but that may very well change now, thanks to the trailer for Blaze — a heart-breaking, Ethan Hawke-directed biopic that was inspired by Foley's often unheralded, yet influential career.
"Who is Foley?" Deadline asked in an article clip from January that now appears as the film's tagline on its website. "He is the unsung, hard-living songwriting legend of the Texas Outlaw Music movement that spawned the likes of Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. Foley was born in a tree house, and was killed in a friend’s living room from a gunshot wound. He wrote hit tunes that included "If I Could Only Fly" and "Election Day." True? Yes. There's more to his story than that, though.
Shot primarily in doleful sepia tones, the trailer for Blaze opens up with Foley — played by newcomer Ben Dickey — getting ready to play a sparsely-attended gig. "Only one drink, Big Dawg," the club owner tells the crooner. "I don't want any shenanigans from you tonight. Don't make me regret it." This, in a nutshell, superbly sets the stage for Hawke's depiction of Foley's hard-lived life and his struggle towards success.
Over the course of the next two melancholy minutes, we get quick glimpses into Foley's relationship with his girlfriend and muse, Sybil Rosen (Arrested Development's Alia Shawkat). For a short time, the pair lived in a treehouse outside of Whitesburg, Georgia, according to The Austin Chronicle, and would eventually hitchhike to Austin, Texas together, in hopes of helping Foley find fame. "You going to be a big country star?" Rosen asks Foley in the trailer. "I don't want to be a star," he replied. "I wants to be a legend."
Foley's attempt at achieving legendary status would be mired by bar fights, booze, and small-room crowds, viewers learn from brief scenes in the trailer. Constantly living life on the road would end up taking a toll on his relationship with Rosen, but the preview implies that their love was what ultimately fueled Foley to keep on keepin' on.
"I know it seems like ... I've been gone all the time," he writes in a letter to Rosen in the trailer. "But, I'm a salesman of songs. Every song I hear about a man and a woman, I think about us and cry." What's that sound, you ask? Oh, just a bunch of heartstrings being plucked and broken all over everywhere.
Towards the conclusion of the trailer, Rosen finally confesses to Foley that she can no longer be his muse. The fate of their relationship — and Foley's career — is left unknown to the viewer, but the last thing we hear is Foley lamenting, "I had a little bit of love. Enough to put in some songs." Please pass the tissues. The trailer alone is an emotional journey, so be prepared to feel some serious feelings when the full-length film comes out.
According to Entertainment Weekly, the script for Blaze was a collaboration between Hawke and the real-life Sybil Rosen. Foley's former flame helped the actor-director adapt the film from her 2008 novel, Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze, which chronicled her life with the singer, his tragic death at the age of 39 in 1989, and the influential legacy he never knew he'd leave behind.
In addition to Dickey and Shawkat, Blaze also stars Charlie Sexton, Josh Hamilton, Richard Linklater, Alynda Segarra, Sam Rockwell, Steve Zahn, and Kris Kristofferson. The film will premiere first in Texas in August, and will then open to audiences nation-wide in September.