Most classic rock fans prefer not to remember the 1977 plane crash that killed Lynyrd Skynyrd frontman Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist/vocalist Steve Gaines, among others. Even so, the crash marks a crucial turning point in the band’s history and remains unforgettable to former Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer Artimus Pyle, who survived the crash and stumbled to a nearby farmhouse to call for help. As Entertainment Weekly reports, Pyle announced today that he will be teaming up with Cleopatra Films to turn his account of that tragic day into a feature film.
Tentatively titled Freebird in honor of the band’s best-known song, the film will focus on Pyle’s experience as one of the few passengers to survive the crash. The drummer will co-produce and co-write the film with Jared Cohn, who’s also slated to direct. “This film’s story — MY story — is not just about the plane crash but also about my personal relationship with the genius that was Ronnie Van Zant, whom I loved like a brother and still miss to this day,” Pyle said in a statement.
Pyle has recounted the plane crash before in interviews, but this marks his first creative project to tackle the subject. He also plans to record original music for the film’s soundtrack. In recent years Pyle has also performed with The Artimus Pyle Band, which he describes as a “tribute” to the music of Ronnie Van Zant’s Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Filming of Freebird is set to kick off this summer.