There are a lot of biopics that people would love to see made and one on Willie Nelson seems to be at least midway to the top of a lot of lists such as the one created by Jake Harris of Wide Open Country. He’s certainly had the kind of career that people agree is worth mentioning since he’s been around long enough to have gained the kind of notoriety that some people strive for and others tend to want to avoid. In the 90s the most polarizing moment that a lot of people remember came when the IRS went after him, as Stephen L. Betts from Rolling Stone gets into with some detail. That moment was enough to break a lot of peoples’ hearts since they felt bad for Willie, while others tended to feel that he should have paid what he owed. That’s been his career though, some people have liked him and others have kept their distance for their own reasons. He’s never been a universal favorite but he’s definitely been universally known to many people, which is more than some folks can say. In a biopic though it would really depend on whether the filmmaker wanted to present the young Willie or the older, more current version. He’s in his 80s now after all and there are a few men that could play this role pretty easily.
Here are just a few of them that might fit the bill without any trouble.
5. Robert De Niro
De Niro has proven that he can turn back the clock or turn it forward when he plays a character as he did in Hands of Stone when he played as Ray Arcel, a noted trainer and boxing aficionado that helped bring to light one of the most noted boxers in history. Taking on the role of an aging country singer seems like it would be a breeze with some of the things he’s done and it would also seem like a rather relaxed movie since it’s far lower on the excitement scale than a lot of the movies he’s done in the recent past. He should be a little higher on this list but quite honestly he feels more like a gimme than anything.
4. Al Pacino
Some of these picks have more to do with size and build than anything since Willie Nelson isn’t a big guy and those that are playing him would need to be somewhat on the smaller side since he’s someone that has a big presence but isn’t all that grandiose in person. But Pacino, perhaps the biggest challenge would be toning down that manic energy he brings to a set sometimes. You can honestly say that he’s capable of doing this since he’s created several movies in which he’s been able to be the stone-cold, ice water in his veins type, but as he gets older it almost seems as though that inner fire burns a little hotter at times.
3. Dustin Hoffman
What I didn’t mention with Pacino was the use of his accent that would need to be dialed back, and it would be the same with Hoffman. Both men have very noticeable accents that aren’t country in the least bit and while they’re both professional and know how to work around this it would have to be quite convincing. Hoffman is the kind of guy that can give an outstanding performance and be the guy you need at any given moment, but he’s also the kind of guy that might be put on the back burner in terms of making a final decision on who to use, perhaps as an understudy or second choice.
2. Bruce Willis
This is an odd choice isn’t it? Perhaps Willis could play the younger Nelson at some point in the movie, or maybe he could depict Nelson’s early years. He does seem a bit tall for the role but things like this have been done before and forgiven. Plus it might be a nice switch to see one of the hardest-hitting action stars in the business lay low and take on a role that carries less of an impact and is a lot more dramatic than anything else. It could work.
1. Richard Dreyfuss
Old men in this role is a must since unless the biopic decided to cover Willie’s life as a young man, and it might if it ever gets created, then the older the actor the better since a lot of people recall what went on from the 90s and on. Willie was in his 60s at that point and was already starting to look pretty haggard so it would be wiser to sign on an older actor and get them to play out the last couple of decades of Willie’s life.
If it does happen it could be kind of an entertaining movie.