A new biopic about Robert Johnson, the legendary 1930s blues musician, is in the works. The film is called Love in Vain, and it’s being helmed by none other than Peter Ramsey, the director behind Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Paramount bought the pitch for Love in Vain from writer Krystin Ver Linden, whose best known work is the initial script for Sally Ride biopic Ride, reports Deadline. As previously mentioned, Ramsey will direct, making this his first live-action film. Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Mike Menchel, and Lionel Richie are onboard to produce the film. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like David Lynch will lend a hand in the film as previously suspected.
Robert Johnson is as legendary of an artist as can be. He only sat down for two recording sessions in his lifetime — he died young, at age 27, back in 1938 — and churned out 29 songs. His lyrics, his voice, and most of all his style of playing guitar were quick to resonate with others. When his songs were re-released in the early 1960s, famous musicians began citing him as an influence, including Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, Robert Plant, and Eric Clapton. He allegedly sold his soul to the devil in exchange for mastering the art of guitar, and it was obvious to all that if anyone could pioneer a genre early on, it was Johnson with the Delta Blues — even if betting played a role.
There’s a lot of films out there that have tried to explain the life and work of Johnson — the 1991 documentary The Search for Robert Johnson, the 1997 documentary Can’t You Hear the Wind Howl: The Life and Music of Robert Johnson, and the recent 2018 Netflix movie Devil at the Crossroads, for example — but nearly all of them suffer from the lack of documented information about the musician. Johnson wasn’t listed as a child on his mother’s 1910 census. Two marriage licenses for Johnson have been found, but both cite differing birth dates. And to think, these are just the details about the literal beginning of his life. Other facts about his life growing up and the work he created suffer from similarly mismatched facts, making various recounting of his life difficult to cite as truths, leaving historian’s tales to add to the general rough sketch of his biography instead of cementing hard details.
Love in Vain will be Ramsey’s first directing role since the Oscar-winning Spider-Verse. A Spider-Verse sequel and a Spider-Women spin-off are both in the works, with the prior already having a 2022 release date slotted, but Ramsey is behind neither of them. This should leave his schedule fairly open to commit fully to the biopic. It looks like he will need all the time he can get given how notoriously difficult reporting on Johnson has been for filmmakers and historians alike over the decades.