Artimus Pyle survived the 1977 plane crash that killed several of his Lynyrd Skynyrd bandmates, and now 40 years later, the founding Skynyrd drummer is working on a script for a feature film about the band and the tragedy. According to Deadline,Pyle has teamed up with director and co-writer Jared Cohn for a film about the seminal Southern rock band, to be produced by Cleopatra Films.
Artimus Pyle was one of 20 survivors aboard the chartered Convair CV-240 airplane that crashed into a swampy forest in Mississippi on October 20, 1977, instantly killing Lynyrd Skynyrd frontman Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, vocalist Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary, and co-pilot William Gray just three days after the band’s fifth album, Street Survivors, was released.
While it has been four decades since one of the greatest tragedies in rock ‘n roll, for Artimus Pyle, the memories are still painfully vivid.
“We want this to be a good movie that tells a very passionate, intimate story about the music and the band and a rise and fall that happened so suddenly,” Pyle told Deadline.
Artimus Pyle revealed that he spent 20 hours with Cohn rehashing the events of that tragic day in preparation for the Lynyrd Skynyrd screenplay.
“When that plane crashed, we were at the top of the world, man,” Pyle said. “I mean, we could play with any band — any band, whether it was the Rolling Stones, anyone, and we would hold our own or better. I think of that accident every day and what we might have accomplished if we’d have 10 more years.”
Pyle went on to say that he wants fans to see his late bandmates as they really were: “Real, funny people who loved the music, loved the success that allowed us to be able to travel the world and play for kings and queens all over this planet.”
But there’s no denying that the tragic plane crash, and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s final show in South Carolina, will play heavily in the film.
“Of course, there is the tragedy, us being on this airplane that ran out of fuel after a performance in Greenville, South Carolina that became the last place Ronnie Van Zant ever sang ‘Free Bird,'” Artimus said. “It’s incredibly personal and passionate to me and I want the movie-going public to be able to share the laughs and the tears.”
Artimus Pyle hopes to begin shooting the film later this year, and the iconic drummer will provide some of the music for the soundtrack, although it remains to be seen if he will be able to use Lynyrd Skynyrd songs. Producers are working on getting the rights to the band’s music amid long-running disputes over Lynyrd Skynyrd’s legacy.
Artimus Pyle and Gary Rossington are now the last two living Lynyrd Skynyrd band members who walked away from the crash, but the musicians no longer play together because of the disputes with heirs and management. The 1977 tragedy signaled the end of the band’s original lineup. An ABC News report at the time revealed that Pyle and the surviving members of the band vowed that they would never play under the name Lynyrd Skynyrd again.
But a decade after the remaining bandmates disbanded, four of the crash survivors – Pyle, Rossington, Billy Powell and Leon Wilkeson — teamed up with former member Ed King, and the late Ronnie Van Zant’s younger brother, Johnny Van Zant, for a tribute tour. A revamped version of Lynyrd Skynyrd remains today with Johnny Van Zant as the frontman.
Artimus Pyle now says the upcoming film is “a much deserved movie for the fans of Skynyrd, and for people who’ll become fans after they see it.” Artimus also gave props to Cleopatra Films for “stepping up the way it has, when nobody else was willing to go against the powers that be, to get this story told.”
Artimus Pyle is also working on his autobiography, which could be released in conjunction with the Lynyrd Skynyrd film.
You can hear Artimus Pyle talking about the fatal Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash in the video below.
[Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain]