Creative England is backing Jeanie Finlay’s next Orion: The Man Who Would Be King.
The feature documentary is about Jimmy Ellis, a singer who was plucked from obscurity in 1978, given a fictional identity, signed to Sun Records and thrust into the spotlight as part of a crazy scheme that had him masquerade as Elvis back from the grave.
Ellis had a voice that was described as “a dead-ringer for Presley’s” and wore a trademark mask when performing. After he had a meltdown and ripped off the mask live on-stage, he spent the rest of his career in obscurity before dying in a tragic killing.
Finlay has been working on the film since 2009 and with the backing she will be shooting more footage in Norway at the end of the month and will then be editing from February. During the past three years, Finlay has been doing archival research and interviewing key figures from Ellis’ life. The film will also include performances and interviews with Ellis from all stages of his career.
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Finlay said: “I bought an Orion LP ten years ago at a car-boot sale. Enticed by the mysterious masked man on the cover I immediately wanted to peek underneath and discover more about the man behind the mask. When I heard his voice and uncovered his story I felt haunted and compelled to tell his Faustian quest for fame and his tragic demise.”
Anna Seifert Speck of Creative England added, “Orion is a compelling story with true cinematic potential. We are excited to be backing the project and excited to see how Jeanie will realise this unique story”
Al Morrow, producer, added “Met Film Production is thrilled to be working once again with director Jeanie Finlay and Glimmer Films on her new film Orion. An award winning director, Jeanie is a uniquely brilliant story-teller who puts her characters at the heart of all her films. As with The Great Hip Hop Hoax, she has found another extraordinary protagonist in Jimmy Ellis aka Orion – the man who would be king.”
Finlay, a former Screen International Star of Tomorrow who has credits including Sound It Out and Goth Cruise, is now finishing The Great Hip Hop Hoax, which will launch this year both theatrically and on the BBC’s Storyville strand. That project is about Silibil n’ Brains, Scottish students who masqueraded as an American hip-hop duo.