Real-life best friends Ethan Hawke and Alessandro Nivola are teaming up for country music drama, Satan Is Real. The film is based on the story of the Louvin Brothers – influential country musicians whose relationship was forged by love, hate, jealousy, and alcohol.
Although the brothers, Charlie and Ira, were related, they had dramatically different personalities. Charlie was an honest, churchgoing Christian man, while his brother was described as “having the devil in him”, and was known for smashing his mandolin to splinters onstage and wrecking havoc in his wake.
In a Variety interview, Hawke and Nivola said they hoped to achieve a music term called “blood harmony” in their performances. Blood harmony describes the kind of harmonising that can be achieved when family members sing together, because their genetic link allows them to share the same tone in their voice.
Hawke described the process as “Such an important expression to us. It sounds both violent and beautiful and the music should be that. It’s aggressive, it’s electric, it’s strange. It’s not Brooklyn folk rock. It’s not wannabe cool guy country. It’s hillbilly gospel music”.
Phil Morrison will direct the film. He previously worked with Nivola on the drama, Junebug. Jon Raymond and Shelby Gaines are writing the screenplay. Hawke and Nivola have been great friends since 2010, when Nivola starred in the off-Broadway revival of Sam Shepard‘s A Lie Of The Mind, which Hawke directed. Hawke later moved his family to the same Brooklyn neighbourhood where Nivola lives.
The duo hope their deep bond will help them capture the close but volatile nature of the real-life brothers. Hawke said that the goal is that the musical sequences will help chart the brothers’ deteriorating relationship, much like the boxing sequences in Raging Bull served as metaphors for boxer Jake LaMotta‘s problems with his brother and wife.
“We want to put all our love and disappointments and all the real stuff of life into the film”, he added.
The film is currently being presented to buyers at Cannes.