The film is a biographical dramatization of country and blues singer-songwriter Hank Williams, his life and rise to fame as one of country music's most popular and influential artists. The title comes from the gospel song of the same name written and performed by Williams. The film was released on March 25, 2016, by Sony Pictures Classics.
The film revolves around country music singer Hank Williams’ rise to fame and sudden death at the age of 29.Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams
Elizabeth Olsen as Audrey Sheppard Williams, Hank's wife, manager, and duet partner
Cherry Jones as Lillie Skipper Williams, Hank's mother
Bradley Whitford as Fred Rose, co-owner of Acuff-Rose song publishing in Nashville, who produced Hank's records and co-wrote several songs with Hank
Maddie Hasson as Billie Jean, a 19-year-old pursued by Hank after his divorce from Audrey and eventually becomes his second wife and widow.
Wrenn Schmidt as Bobbie Jett, had a short relationship with Hank after his divorce from Audrey. She gave birth to their daughter, Jett Williams
David Krumholtz as James Dolan, a New York journalist
Josh Pais as Dore Schary, a movie director, producer and former head of MGM Studios
James DuMont as WB Nolan, a music promoter and small-town mayor
Casey Bond as Jerry Rivers
Michael Rinne as Lum York, bass player in Hank's band, Drifting Cowboys
Joshua Brady as Sammy Pruett, lead guitarist in Hank's band, Drifting Cowboys
Wes Langlois as Don Helms, steel guitarist in Hank's band, Drifting Cowboys
Von Lewis as Ray Price, a Country singer and roommate of Hank Williams
Fred Parker Jr. as Faron Young
Rob Boltin as Frank Walker, President of Hank's record label, MGM Records
Director Marc Abraham began developing the film in 2009 and adapted the screenplay himself. In June 2014, producers secured the rights to Williams' music for the film after making a deal with Sony ATV. Aaron L. Gilbert with Bron Studios will produce alongside Brett Ratner's production company RatPac Entertainment, G. Marq Roswell and Abraham. Creative Wealth Media Finance will finance the film. On 12 June 2014, British actor Tom Hiddleston who was set to play Hank Williams, posted an image of himself on his Twitter account, dressed as Williams with the title of the film as the caption.
Hiddleston will sing his own music for the film, also taking on Williams' southern accent. To prepare for the film and work on his singing and guitar playing, Hiddleston practiced with country singer Rodney Crowell. In July 2014, Crowell signed on to be the executive music producer for the film while Carter Little, who has worked with the Black Keys on The Man With the Iron Fists, signed on to serve as music supervisor. Crowell said of Hiddleston, "After nearly a month spent collaborating with this gifted artist, I'm as respectful of the man's work ethic as I'm mystified by his transformational skills. Without a doubt, the filmmakers chose the right actor for the job."
At the 2014 Wheatland Music Festival, Hiddleston sang "Move It on Over" and "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)", promoting the film.
Casting for the film for extras and additional actors begin in September 2014. Casting was done by Legacy Casting and Tracy Kilpatrick of The Casting Office. On September 12, Rolling Stone announced that Elizabeth Olsen would be playing Audrey Williams, Hank's wife, manager, duet partner.
Principal photography took place in Shreveport, Louisiana, starting in October 2014 and ending in December 2014.
Williams' grandson, singer Hank Williams III, has publicly expressed his displeasure for Hiddleston's singing skills. Soon after Hiddleston's performance of "Move It on Over" at the Wheatland Music Festival, Hank III posted on Facebook, "here is how you do it Tom, You got no moan or soul in your voice," along with a video of himself singing his grandfather's hit. Hank III went on to critique Hiddleston's role, saying "To do a Hank Williams movie the way it should be done you need certain aspects in the mix to make right. It goes way beyond having an American to play the role of Hiram Hank Williams, Sr. for it to be somewhat natural, it needs to be an American from the South who has eaten, lived and breathed these kind of roles before to make more respectable movie on Hank Sr." On September 11, 2015, soon after Hiddleston posted a film clip on social media, Hank III made another statement on Facebook, saying that the film seemed to lack "justice and real foundation."
Conversely, Holly Williams, granddaughter of Hank Williams, Sr. and half-sister of Hank Williams III, praised Hiddleston's performance, stating in an interview with Rolling Stone, "Tom really put his whole heart and soul into it. He worked so hard to embody everything about Hank, all of the nuances and who Hank really was. Tom put all his passion into his performance."
The soundtrack for I Saw the Light was released on March 25, 2016 by Legacy Recordings. Seven of the songs are performed by Tom Hiddleston and the Saddle Spring Boys.
The film was originally scheduled to be released on November 27, 2015, by Sony Pictures Classics. However, on October 16, the release date was pushed back to March 25, 2016.
I Saw the Light received mixed to negative reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 20% score based on 131 reviews, with an average rating of 4.6/10. The site's consensus states: "I Saw the Light boasts a terrifically talented cast, but their performances aren't enough to enliven an unfocused biopic that never comes close to capturing its subject's timeless appeal." Metacritic reports a 47 out of 100 rating based on 35 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of The A.V. Club criticized I Saw the Light for not having "a spark of insight or psychology to it," and stated "no character in the film ever comes across as more than an accent." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film one of four stars, stating "Not even a singin', boozin' Tom Hiddleston can save this tepid Hank Williams biopic from itself."