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"Country music is three chords and the truth.” -- Harlan Howard

Like a sly and tender country song, laced with equal parts passion, humor and trouble, CRAZY HEART is the portrait of a man who has lived hard, fast and recklessly, but still goes after the salvation of love when his heart gets what appears to be one last chance to redeem itself. Writer, producer and director Scott Cooper – himself a Southerner steeped in the rollicking legends and bittersweet themes of country music – always saw CRAZY HEART's outsized lead character of Bad Blake as a mirror of the country heroes he grew up idolizing, in spite of their wildly unpredictable love lives and battles with their darker impulses. Bad might indeed have a "bad” streak – he can be as ornery, irresponsible, intoxicated and ridiculous as they come – but he is equally a gifted storyteller, an unsinkable romantic, a soul in need, and a man who finally proves himself willing to chase after redemption when all seems lost.

Cooper was best known as an actor – he appears in 2010's GET LOW with Robert Duvall – when he first ran into Bad Blake in Thomas Cobb's novel Crazy Heart. He had been on the hunt for a raw and realistic country-music-themed project to write and direct for some time.

The book was critically acclaimed, with the New York Times Book Review saying "the milieu is as resonant as a steel guitar and the plot moves along without skipping a beat,” and country star/novelist/politician Kinky Friedman writing, "The characters are cut cleanly out of America--the roadside West, the dance halls and beer joints, the occasional big concert . . .and the endless, eternal hotel rooms that are as close to home as any country singer ever gets... Bad Blake is a man you will not soon forget."

The character certainly carried a kick and abounded with potential, but as he sat down to write, Cooper faced the task of translating Bad Blake's mix of humor and sorrow into something that would feel resonant and exhilarating on screen, that would come across as funny and honest and that might illuminate in equal parts the sheer exuberance of his musical talent and the tough-to-escape lure of his demons.

In many ways, it came naturally to Cooper. "I grew up with this type of music, living in the same type of world that Bad Blake lives in. And being an actor, I understood the nature of a performance-driven story. I felt like if I couldn't do this, having grown up in the South, steeped in country rock, working as an actor, I was in trouble,” he laughs.

Cooper let the character and the rich ironies of his almost-famous, perilously-conducted life guide the way. "What I really wanted to capture was the mixture of humor and pathos in Bad's life, and inject it with levity,” he explains. "Bad is an old dog who doesn't know if he has any new tricks, a man who will always go through peaks and valleys but his story moves, in spite of that, towards redemption.”

The urge to change is sparked in Bad by one of the sweetest romances he's ever encountered – and here, too, Cooper wanted to evoke all the real and wild contradictions of relationships – the heat and the electricity that make those first moments of love so thrilling and the ways we still can find ourselves doing wrong by those we care about the most no matter how powerful the feelings.

has long been a mentor to him: Robert Duvall, who himself won an Oscar® playing a down-and-out country singer in Horton Foote's beloved classic, TENDER MERCIES. Duvall's response changed everything.

"When you send a script to Robert Duvall and he says ‘Yes,' that's pretty much all that you could ever dream about,” muses Cooper.

It was far more than just a relationship that sealed the deal, however. The script's unerring vision of man trying to follow his u

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