Midnight Rider (partially found unfinished biographical film based on band; 2013-2014)

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This article has been tagged as NSFL due to its discussion of fatal train accident.


Sarah Jones, the camerawoman killed in the train accident.

Status: Partially Found

The Allman Brothers Band was a rock band formed by brothers Gregg and Duane Allman in 1969. They have left behind an influence and are considered one of the pioneers of Southern rock music. They have had multiple break-ups and reunions, their final break-up being in 2014.[1]

Around 2013, a film was planned based on the band that was named after their 1971 single "Midnight Rider."


In May 2013, Open Road Films announced production of a biographical film about the Allman Brothers Band, based on Gregg Allman's memoir My Cross To Bear, with Randall Miller as director.[2] Gregg Allman and band manager Michael Lehman were to be closely involved in the project.[3]

The Train Accident

February 20th, 2014 was the first day of filming. The crew was taken to a remote location in Wayne County, GA, to film a dream sequence, in which William Hurt, as Gregg Allman, lay on a hospital bed on a train trestle, high above the Altamaha River.[4]

However, the necessary arrangements and permissions to shoot at this site had not been secured, nor were standard film industry safety practices followed.[5] The group were simply advised that they would have one minute to get out of the way of any oncoming train.[6] And during the course of their work, a train was suddenly spotted approaching.

Reaching safe ground meant running toward the train. The crew were told to leave the camera equipment and get to safety, though Miller and another individual attempted to remove the metal bedframe, fearing a derailment. They were forced to abandon the effort, Miller being pulled out of harm's way at the last second by the still photographer.

The train crashed into the bed. Debris and shrapnel were sent flying. Numerous people were injured, six of them badly enough to warrant medical attention. A portion of the bed struck camera assistant Sarah Jones, which threw her toward the train; she was struck by its fuel tank and died instantly.[7]


Production immediately halted after the accident. Multiple court cases ensued, including a wrongful death lawsuit by Jones' parents against the railroad company responsible for the trestle.[8] Randall Miller, assistant director Hillary Schwartz, and two producers were tried for involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass.[9][10][11] A film production safety campaign was established in honor of Sarah Jones, called "Safety for Sarah".

Despite the controversy, and despite Film Allman LLC announcing the suspension of production, Randall Miller still intended to go forward with the film.[12][13] William Hurt pulled out about two months after the incident.[14] Gregg Allman begged the producers and directors to drop the project out of respect for Sarah Jones, and eventually filed a civil lawsuit to this end; the matter was settled out of court, and the movie shelved.[15]


Not much has surfaced of Midnight Rider. It's unclear just how much material was ever shot to begin with, but the single day of filming along with the subsequent timeline of events would suggest a relatively small amount.

February 20 was just scheduled to involve some test filming, with principal photography yet a few days away, but Miller took the crew to Doctortown seemingly intending to shoot a full scene.[16] They set up on the riverbanks at first and later moved onto the train tracks. This soon led to Jones' death, and many of the survivors were left injured and traumatized. On February 26, Film Allman, LLC confirmed that production had been suspended.

In mid-April, news reports indicated Miller hoped to resume production by June. Uproar was widespread among industry workers, who pledged in Sarah's honor to boycott the picture and called on Allman, Hurt, and others at the top to take a stand. Hurt formally quit near the end of April, after he had already been abroad for some time working on a different movie; Unclaimed Freight intended to recast the role.

Altogether, the known facts point to February 20 being the only day any cast and crew were assembled to film, and to the train accident very likely being the last footage shot in the making of Midnight Rider. It is uncertain whether any scene other than #14 was worked on that day, and what, if anything, was shot on the riverbanks prior to the trestle. It's also unclear if any B-roll was shot.

The known publicly available footage from Midnight Rider proper consists of a simple edit of scene #14, Gregg Allman's train track dream, which is introduced by Miller with some pages from the screenplay. This was made as part of Miller's defense, but never shown in court.[17] There is also a "rock video" filmed the day before the accident, intended to be a bonus feature on the DVD.

As for the accident, a partial clip of the crew heading for safety and trying to move the bed off the tracks was released through mainstream media.[18] However, a more complete and graphic version may be found through other online outlets.

The released scene #14 and music video are likely the only footage of Midnight Rider that will ever surface due to the brevity of production and the controversy surrounding it, and the film will almost certainly remain unfinished for the same reason. In October 2014, it was reported that Miller had a project in the works with suspicious similarities to Midnight Rider, but his trial brought down a sentence which prohibits him from directing films for several years.


Footage of the dream sequence and bonus feature.