I Saw the Light (film)

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I Saw the Light
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMarc Abraham
Written byMarc Abraham
Based onHank Williams: The Biography
by Colin Escott
George Merritt
William MacEwen
Produced by
CinematographyDante Spinotti
Edited byAlan Heim
Music byAaron Zigman
Distributed bySony Pictures Classics
Release dates
  • September 11, 2015 (2015-09-11) (TIFF)
  • March 25, 2016 (2016-03-25) (United States)
Running time
123 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$13 million[2]
Box office$1.8 million[3]

I Saw the Light is a 2015 American biographical drama film directed, written, and produced by Marc Abraham, starring Tom Hiddleston as country music legend Hank Williams and Elizabeth Olsen as his first wife, Audrey Williams. It is based on the book Hank Williams: The Biography by Colin Escott, George Merritt, and William (Bill) MacEwen. It was screened in the Special Presentations section of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.[4]

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.[5]


The film revolves around country music singer Hank Williams' rise to fame and sudden death at the age of 29. It also explains his rocky marriage to and eventual divorce from Audrey Sheppard mostly due to his alcoholism and infidelity.[6]




Director Marc Abraham began developing the film in 2009 and adapted the screenplay himself.[17] In June 2014, producers secured the rights to Williams' music for the film after making a deal with Sony ATV.[7][18] Aaron L. Gilbert with Bron Studios produced the film alongside Brett Ratner's production company RatPac Entertainment, G. Marq Roswell and Abraham.[18] Creative Wealth Media Finance financed the film.[19] On June 12, 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.[20]

Hiddleston sang his own music for the film, also taking on Williams' southern accent.[21] To prepare for the film and work on his singing and guitar playing, Hiddleston practiced with country singer Rodney Crowell.[22] 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.[23] 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."[24]

At the 2014 Wheatland Music Festival, Hiddleston sang "Move It on Over" and "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)", promoting the film.[25][26]

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.[27] On September 12, Rolling Stone announced that Elizabeth Olsen would be playing Audrey Williams, Hank's wife, manager and duet partner.[8]


Principal photography took place in Shreveport, Louisiana, starting in October 2014 and ending in December 2014.[7][28][29]


Williams' grandson, singer Hank Williams III, has publicly expressed his displeasure for Hiddleston's singing skills.[30] Soon after Hiddleston's performance of "Move It on Over" at the Wheatland Music Festival, Williams posted negative criticism of aspects of Hiddleston's voice on Facebook, along with a video of himself singing his grandfather's hit.[31]

Williams 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."[31][32] On September 11, 2015, soon after Hiddleston posted a film clip on social media, Williams made another statement on Facebook, saying that the film seemed to lack "justice and real foundation."[33]

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."[34]


I Saw the Light (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
ReleasedMarch 25, 2016 (2016-03-25)
LabelLegacy Recordings

The soundtrack for I Saw the Light was released on March 25, 2016,[35] by Legacy Recordings. Seven of the songs are performed by Tom Hiddleston and the Saddle Spring Boys.[36]

Track listing
1."Hey Good Lookin'"Tom Hiddleston and the Saddle Spring Boys2:49
2."Move It on Over"Tom Hiddleston and the Saddle Spring Boys2:18
3."Anytime"Eddy Arnold2:52
4."Field Hand Man"The Delmore Brothers2:58
5."Jambalaya"Tom Hiddleston and the Saddle Spring Boys2:47
6."The Tennessee Waltz"Jo Stafford2:25
7."My Bucket's Got a Hole in It"Tom Hiddleston and the Saddle Spring Boys2:14
8."That's What's Knockin' Me Out"Jimmy Liggins2:07
9."Santa Baby"Eartha Kitt3:25
10."Why Don't You Love Me"Tom Hiddleston and the Saddle Spring Boys2:19
11."Please Don't Let Me Love You"George Morgan2:36
12."Honky Tonkin'"Tom Hiddleston and the Saddle Spring Boys2:41
13."Lovesick Blues" (Soundtrack Edit)Emmett Miller1:23
Total length:32:54


The film was originally scheduled to be released on November 27, 2015, by Sony Pictures Classics.[37] However, on October 16, the release date was pushed back to March 25, 2016, for the limited release, with wide expansion is getting started on April 1.[5]


I Saw the Light received mixed to negative reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 18% score based on 154 reviews, with an average rating of 4.59/10. 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."[38] Metacritic reports a 47 out of 100 rating based on 35 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[39]

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."[40] 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."[41]


  1. ^ "I Saw the Light (15)". British Board of Film Classification. February 23, 2016. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  2. ^ Newman, Melinda. "Hank Williams Biopic 'I Saw the Light' Is First Film to License Country Legend's Music in 50 Years". Billboard.
  3. ^ "I Saw the Light (2016)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 4, 2016.
  4. ^ "Sandra Bullock's 'Our Brand Is Crisis,' Robert Redford's 'Truth' to Premiere at Toronto". Variety. August 18, 2015. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  5. ^ a b Hammond, Pete (October 16, 2015). "Oscar Casualty: Sony Pictures Classics Sees The Light, Moves Hank Williams Biopic To March". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 16, 2015.
  6. ^ Adam Chitwood (June 13, 2014). "Tom Hiddleston to Play Hank Williams in I SAW THE LIGHT". Collider. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  7. ^ a b c Sean Michaels (June 13, 2014). "Tom Hiddleston set to play country icon Hank Williams in new biopic". The Guardian. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  8. ^ a b Jonathan Bernstein (September 12, 2014). "Elizabeth Olsen to Play Hank Williams' Wife in Upcoming Movie". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on September 8, 2015. Retrieved September 15, 2014.
  9. ^ a b Stephen L. Betts (November 7, 2014). "Bradley Whitford, Cherry Jones Cast in Upcoming Hank Williams Movie". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on December 28, 2017. Retrieved December 16, 2014.
  10. ^ Jen Yamato (October 2, 2014). "Maddie Hasson Joins 'I Saw The Light'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  11. ^ a b c Beville Dunkerley (October 16, 2014). "Hank Williams Movie Casts Four New Roles". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 28, 2014.
  12. ^ Rebecca Ford (October 15, 2014). "Hank Williams Biopic 'I Saw the Light' Rounds Out Cast". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 28, 2014.
  13. ^ "Casey Bond | The Actor". Casey Bond Official Website. Archived from the original on November 6, 2014. Retrieved October 20, 2014. Currently, Casey is a part of the Main Cast in the Hank Williams biopic titled "I SAW THE LIGHT." He will be playing the role of the legendary Jerry Rivers who was the fiddle player in Hank's band, The Drifting Cowboys.
  14. ^ Jeff Sneider (May 27, 2015). "'Rectify's' Jayson Warner Smith Joins Tom Cruise in Doug Liman's 'Mena' (Exclusive) The veteran character actor is coming off Nate Parker's "Birth of a Nation" and Antonio Campos' "Christine"". The Wrap. Retrieved January 2, 2020.
  15. ^ a b c "Recording soundtrack to upcoming Hank Williams biopic – I Saw the Light". Richard Bennett Facebook. October 1, 2014. Retrieved January 23, 2015.
  16. ^ "Fred Parker has been cast as Faron Young". Fred Parker Jr. Official Website. Archived from the original on October 19, 2014. Retrieved October 13, 2014.
  17. ^ Michael Fleming (August 10, 2009). "Hank Williams biopic on track". Variety. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  18. ^ a b Bruna Nessif (June 12, 2014). "Tom Hiddleston to Star as Country Legend Hank Williams in I Saw the Light". E!. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  19. ^ Dave McNary (June 12, 2014). "Tom Hiddleston to Play Country Icon Hank Williams in Biopic". Variety. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  20. ^ "I Saw The Light". Tom Hiddleston Verified Twitter. June 12, 2014. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  21. ^ James White (June 12, 2014). "Tom Hiddleston Says I Saw The Light". Empire Online. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  22. ^ Matt Goldberg (June 21, 2014). "Tom Hiddleston Talks Playing Hank Williams in I SAW THE LIGHT; Has Started Singing and Playing Every Day". Collider. Retrieved June 26, 2014.
  23. ^ Emily Williams (July 25, 2014). "Rodney Crowell Signs On As Music Producer For Hank Williams Biopic". American Songwriter. Retrieved July 30, 2014.
  24. ^ Gayle Thompson (October 6, 2014). "Rodney Crowell Praises Choice of Tom Hiddleston for Hank Williams Biopic". The Boot. Retrieved October 28, 2014.
  25. ^ Alexis Hauk (September 7, 2014). "Tom Hiddleston Performed at a Michigan Music Festival as Hank Williams". Time. Retrieved September 8, 2014.
  26. ^ Lucinda Holt (September 9, 2014). "Tom Hiddleston Practices His Best Hank Williams Ahead Of Biopic I Saw the Light". Screen Relish. Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  27. ^ "Hank Williams Biopic 'I Saw the Light' Open Casting Call for Speaking Roles". Project Casting. September 9, 2014. Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  28. ^ "Tom Hiddleston to star in Hank Williams biopic filming in Shreveport". Shreveport Times. July 1, 2014. Retrieved July 8, 2014.
  29. ^ Mike Scott (August 13, 2014). "George Clooney, Sandra Bullock, Gerard Butler, Tom Hiddleston pack bags for Louisiana film projects". The Times-Picayune. NOLA Media Group. Retrieved August 18, 2014.
  30. ^ Gayle Thompson (September 9, 2014). "Tom Hiddleston Takes the Stage as Hank Williams, Hank III Critiques Performance". The Boot. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  31. ^ a b Sasha Bogursky (September 8, 2014). "Hank3 says Tom Hiddleston has 'no soul' when singing Hank Williams' songs". Fox News. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  32. ^ Kimberley Truong (September 11, 2015). "Tom Hiddleston croons as Hank Williams in the first clip from 'I Saw the Light'". Mashable. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
  33. ^ Hank Williams III (September 11, 2015). "When you see todays clip on Twitter..." Facebook. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
  34. ^ "Holly Williams Weighs In on Hank Williams Biopic 'I Saw the Light'". Rolling Stone. September 28, 2015. Retrieved August 6, 2016.
  35. ^ "Hear Tom Hiddleston Sing Hank Williams' 'Move It on Over'". Rolling Stone. March 23, 2016.
  36. ^ "Tom Hiddleston's 'I Saw the Light' Soundtrack Will Feature Lots of Country Goodness".
  37. ^ Dave McNary. "'I Saw the Light' Release Date: Tom Hiddleston Film Set for Nov. 27". Variety. Retrieved July 1, 2015.
  38. ^ "I Saw the Light (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  39. ^ "I Saw the Light reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved May 11, 2016.
  40. ^ "I Saw The Light sucks the life out of Hank Williams". The A.V. Club. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  41. ^ Travers, Peter (March 24, 2016). "'I Saw the Light' Movie Review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 30, 2016.

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