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IFC lands biopic about troubled jazz star Chet Baker, starring Ethan Hawke

A new Chet Baker film called Born to Be Blue, starring Ethan Hawke, has been acquired for U.S. distribution by IFC Films.

Baker was one of the most famous jazz musicians of the 1950s — a “cool jazz” legend who spiraled into a famously horrible heroine addiction. A biopic with a healthy dose of Hollywood fiction added, Born to Be Blue portrays Hawke as the singer/trumpeter, and follows the story of the musician as he attempts to make a comeback after years of self neglect and drug addiction.

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The film hit screens for the first time at at the recent Toronto International Film Festival, where critics praised Hawke’s performance as one of his career best. Actress Carmen Ejogo and actor Callum Keith Rennie also star in the movie.

Born to be Blue was written and directed by Robert Budreau, who is somewhat obsessed with the mid-20th century musician — he also wrote and directed a similar film six years ago called The Deaths of Chet Baker, in which the director explored Baker’s mysterious death in Amsterdam in 1988.

Often called the “James Dean of jazz,” Baker has long attracted Hollywood’s attention. Famed producer Dino De Laurentiis wanted the trumpeter to portray himself in his own semi-fictional movie in the late 1960s, a project that fell through. Eventually, though, Baker did appear in a documentary by Bruce Weber entitled Let’s Get Lost, which was shot mere months before Baker’s death.

With such high praise being placed on Hawke’s portrayal of Baker, it’s no wonder IFC was interested. The company worked with the actor on last year’s Oscar nominee for best picture, Boyhood, a decade-long project by writer/director Richard Linklater for which Hawke was equally hailed by critics.

Plus, given the success of films like Whiplash, and the hype surrounding Don Cheadle’s upcoming Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead, jazz films seem to be a better bet for studios these days.

IFC has yet to announce when Born to Be Blue will see American screens for the first time, but, given that the premiere has already happened, viewers should expect at least a limited release by year’s end.