Benedict Cumberbatch is departing director James Mangold's long-incubating Bob Dylan biopic A Complete Unknown due to scheduling conflicts. Fortunately, Academy Award nominee Edward Norton (American History X) is now aboard to portray Americana-folk legend and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Pete Seeger.
Production on the movie, announced in 2020, had been delayed several times, including the work stoppage from the writers and actors strike last summer. However, news reports now set a March start date.
The narrative of the film will focus on the period in 1965 when Dylan, already well-known for his crusading anthems "The Times They Are a-Changin'" and "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll," released Bringing It All Back Home, a huge leap into what was then considered taboo in folk music: electric instrument accompaniment.
Seeger was already a prominent force in American music by the time he met Dylan, having been a member of the Weavers, as a songwriter ("If I Had A Hammer," "Turn! Turn! Turn"), and as a political activist who was blacklisted during the early '50s to the early '60s for his continued bolstering of civil and labor rights and racial equality. However, his support of Dylan had him urging legendary A&R rep John Hammond to produce Dylan's first album, which then led to Seeger inviting Dylan to perform at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.
The five-time Grammy Award-winning artist was bestowed with several accolades during his lifetime including induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, receiving The National Medal of Arts, Kennedy Center Honors and posthumously the inaugural Woody Guthrie Prize in 2014. Seeger passed on January 27 of that year at the age of 94.
Chalamet will be doing his own singing, which was confirmed by Mangold speaking to Collider in April of 2023. Dylan will be serving as an executive producer, and Dylan's longtime manager Jeff Rosen, who is also serving as a producer on the film, gave Chalamet access to a 12-hour playlist of unreleased Dylan songs which were recorded between 1959 and 1964, as reported by MTV's Josh Horowitz in December during a sit-down interview with Chalamet.
In addition to Chalamet and Norton, the cast includes Elle Fanning (The Great) as Sylvie Russo, an artist and university student whom Dylan was romantically involved with in the early ’60s, and Monica Barbaro (Top Gun: Maverick) will portray folk singer Joan Baez.