EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros is re-teaming with its Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu to chronicle the journey of Arnel Pineda, a Filipino singer rescued from obscurity by a YouTube video that led him to become the lead singer of the iconic ’80s arena rock band Journey. Discovered on YouTube by Journey co-founder Neal Schon, who’d finally found the rare singer able to reliably replicate the soaring vocals of exited original lead singer Steve Perry, Pineda revived Journey and put the band back in stadiums once again. Temple Hill’s Marty Bowen will produce, and the search for a writer is underway.
The studio is negotiating to license the original Journey tunes, most written by Perry and Schon, and Warner Bros has acquired rights to Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey. That was the 2012 documentary that chronicled Pineda’s impossible rise. Chu’s vision is to make an empowering movie that follows the real life rock ‘n’ roll fairy tale of a formerly homeless Filipino singer to overnight rock star.
Here is the trailer for that film, and it’s helpful to see it because it outlines what an impossible dream that Pineda is now living:
“The success of Crazy Rich Asians has blown my mind and set me on a path to champion more unique inspirational stories that represent new perspectives from all around the world,” Chu said in a statement to Deadline. “This story in particular has been on my mind since I first read about it years ago. A true fairy tale and triumph of the human spirit. An unlikely hero, an undeniable talent, the power of music and a worldwide stage (literally) has all the ingredients I love about movies. Plus I have been a fan of Journey’s music since I can remember. I am excited to be bringing the audience along on this incredible story with my partners at Warner Bros who have been a leading champion of diverse voices in front and behind the camera.”
This comes on the heels of the out-sized success of the Freddie Mercury and Queen film Bohemian Rhapsody, a crowd pleasing biopic that has grossed over $540 million and put Rami Malek in the Best Actor conversation. Paramount just wrapped Rocketman, a film about the formative years of Elton John, with Dexter Fletcher directing (he completed Bohemian Rhapsody after Fox parted company with helmer Bryan Singer). Warner Bros previously touched on similar turf with the 2001 film Rock Star, with Mark Wahlberg in a fictional storyline that was based on Tim “Ripper” Owens. He went from fronting a Judas Priest tribute band to replacing the band’s lead singer Rob Halford.
Pineda’s tale is more astounding and this film will tell his true story, one that has ambitions to be something like Slumdog Millionaire. Pineda began singing at 15 at a Shakey’s Pizza Parlor in Manila and came close several times to breaking through. But he was as down on his luck as was the singer-less Journey his cover tunes of bands like Led Zeppelin and Journey were posted on YouTube and caught the attention of Schon. Schon could not get Perry to return and was ready to give up when he stumbled across Pineda and was gobsmacked. As for Perry, after a long sabbatical he recently released a new album and took the stage with Pineda, Schon and the rest of the band when Journey was inducted in the Rock N’ Roll Hall Of Fame. The band’s popularity continues, with its signature Don’t Stop Believin’ the soundtrack of the closing scene of The Sopranos.
The project will be overseen for the studio by Kevin McCormick.
Chu is repped by UTA, managers Allen Fischer and Brian Dobbins at Artists First, and attorney Allison Binder.
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