Forest Whitaker Returns to Jazz as Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong (left) and Forest Whitaker (right)

I still haven’t seen Clint Eastwood’s Bird in which Forest Whitaker stars as Charlie Parker, a film he won the Cannes Film Festival best actor award for as well as earned a Golden Globe nomination, but it remains in my Netflix queue. I hope to get to it some time soon as it seems Whitaker is returning to the world of jazz to play yet another icon, only this time he will be directing as well. Ben Child at The Guardian reports that Forest Whitaker will play Louis Armstrong in the first Armstrong estate officially sanctioned biopic of the great jazz singer and trumpet player which he will also direct.

The film will be called What a Wonderful World based on Armstrong’s well known song and will chronicle the musician’s life from his impoverished early days in New Orleans to his death in 1971 following a long career over which he transformed jazz and popular music as a whole.

Oscar Cohen, executive of the Armstrong estate and the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, started work with Armstrong as his road manager in the late 40s, and is granting the filmmakers exclusive access to letters and other material from the estate’s archives, as well as his own memories.

This definitely comes off as an opportunity for Whitaker to up his filmmaking cred as his previous directing outings have been moderately received to say the best. He directed Waiting to Exhale (1995), Hope Floats (1998) and the Katie Holmes starrer First Daughter (2004), which was a rather shocking decision considering the final film he directed showed no growth as a filmmaker in terms of choice of projects. Hopefully, What a Wonderful World will jump start his directing career, or it may be a sign that he just doesn’t have the chops for the job behind the camera. We can’t all be perfect.

There is no word on who wrote the screenplay.