FOREST WHITAKER is sure to shock fans of jazz crooner LOUIS ARMSTRONG by focusing on ‘Satchmo’s’ love of marijuana in his next movie.
The Crying Game star will star as Armstrong and direct the biopic next year (11), and he insists he won’t be shying away from the most controversial aspects of the We Have All The Time in the World singer’s life.
The actor/director says, “He smoked weed every day and it’s in the movie where he wrote to the president to try and make it legal. We will have that in the film.”
And Whitaker is taking time out to make sure his portrayal of Armstrong is Oscar worthy: “I’m taking a year to prepare and practice the trumpet.”
A little more about Louis
Born 60 years apart on Aug. 4, Louis Armstrong and Barack Obama are two of the most famous African Americans. While Obama admitted to using marijuana and supports decriminalization, Armstrong was a lifelong “gage” smoker who was busted in 1931 and encouraged Pres. Dwight Eisenhower to change the pot laws.
The New Orleans-born trumpeter first smoked gage or “shuzzit” in his early 20s when he lived in Chicago. “We did call ourselves vipers,” Armstrong explained in Max Jones and John Chilton’s Louis: The Louis Armstrong Story, 1900-1971, “which could have been anybody from all walks of life that smoked and respected gage. That was our cute little name for marijuana, and it was a misdemeanor in those days. Much different from the pressure and charges the law lays on a guy who smokes pot – a later name for the same thing… We always looked at pot as a sort of medicine, a cheap drunk and with much better thoughts than one that’s full of liquor.”
By 1931, word had gone around that Armstrong was a regular reefer smoker. One day, when Armstrong was taking a smoke break outside a Los Angeles club, two cops or “dicks” arrested him, making Armstrong the first celebrity to be busted for marijuana.
“I spent nine days in the Downtown Los Angeles City Jail,” he recalled. At his trial, “The judge gave me a suspended sentence and I went to work that night – wailed just like nothing happened. What strucked me funny though – I laughed real loud when several movie stars came up to the bandstand while we played a dance set. and told me, when they heard about me getting caught with marijuana they thought marijuana was a chick. Woo boy – that really fractured me!”
In the ’50s, Armstrong joined the civil rights movement. He canceled a State Department tour of the Soviet Union, stating, “The way they’re treating my people in the South, the government can go to hell.”
In a letter, Armstrong also famously called on Pres. Eisenhower to legalize marijuana.
“It makes you feel good, man,” Armstrong said about marijuana, “[it] makes you forget all the bad things that happen to a Negro. It makes you feel wanted, and when you’re with another tea smoker, it makes you feel a special kinship.”
One of America’s most beloved entertainers, Armstrong was a founding father of jazz, starting in the ragtime and Dixieland eras and graduating to big bands. Among his most famous songs are “West End Blues,” WATCH THE CLIP BELOW “What a Wonderful World, “Hello Dolly and “Muggles” (another of his names for marijuana).
Armstrong died on July 6, 1971.
For more about the life and times of Louis Armstrong, visit the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, New York.