Benedict Cumberbatch has been confirmed to be playing folk singer Pete Seeger in the upcoming Bob Dylan biopic, Complete Unknown.
The news was confirmed by Deadline following a screening of director James Mangold’s latest film, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, at Cannes Film Festival. Mangold also told the outlet that Elle Fanning is set to star in the film.
Seeger, who died in 2014, had a significant impact on Dylan’s musical upbringing, having a profound influence on Dylan from the perspectives of both music and activism. In turn, Seeger was an early supporter of Dylan, helping to facilitate his debut album with Columbia Records. He also invited Dylan to play at Newport Folk Festival (where Seeger served as a board member).
Complete Unknown is set to chronicle Dylan’s early career until his arrival in New York City. Timothée Chalamet will play Dylan and is set to do all his own singing, while Monica Barbaro has also signed on to play Joan Baetz, one of the first major artists to record his songs in the early 1960s.
Last month, Mangold confirmed that the film was to begin shooting in August. “It’s such an interesting true story about such an interesting moment in the American scene,” Mangold told Collider.
The project was originally announced in 2020, before being delayed indefinitely later that year with no release timeframe shared. According to cinematographer Phedon Papamichael, the movie’s need for period-specific settings and costuming, as well as the need for lots of extras, were proving a challenge with the coronavirus restrictions, forcing it to be postponed.
It’s not the first time Mangold has worked on a music biopic, having written and directed the acclaimed Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line in 2005.
Dylan has been portrayed on the big screen before, most notably in the 2007 musical drama I’m Not There where various versions of him were played by the likes of Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett and the late Heath Ledger.