When Rock Biopics Go Wrong

So, Robert Pattinson isn’t going to play Kurt Cobain after all. What a shame. It could have been amazing. Nirvana – the tween version!

Miley Cyrus could have played Courtney Love, displaying her powerhouse acting credentials when discovering the body (“Like, OMG!”). Justin Bieber would have been BFF Dylan Carlson, casually breaking into a track from his latest album at the funeral. And Seattle would have been played by LA – because all that rain is, like, so depressing.

In fact, death is a bit of a sad face moment, isn’t it? So Kurt would have probably lived. And made his comeback with the Jonas Brothers, singing his brand new track as the credits rolled: ‘Something In The Way (Of My Love)’. McDonald’s would have had a Happy Meal tie-in.

Of course, it wouldn’t have been amazing at all. But it might not have just been bad. Not just a bit awful (that’s boring). It could have been amazingly awful. And you have to admit, there’s a certain wonderful fascination when rock biopics really go bad.

Take Val Kilmer, who starred as Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone’s 1991 The Doors. Fair play to Val – he put in the hours, attending Doors tribute concerts, reading Morrison’s poetry, and spending a year before production dressing in Morrison-like clothes.

And yet he was still shit. To be fair, most of that was down to Stone’s script – a third of which was fiction, and showed Morrison as a one-note mumbling, incoherent weirdo, drug-addled and obsessed with death. Sure, Morrison had his problems – but he wasn’t David Icke. Still, it could have been worse. At one point, Tom Cruise had been lined up.

What others? Personally, despite it getting okay reviews, I couldn’t stand Nick Moran’s Telstar about the life of Joe Meek, which played his life out like an episode of Upstairs, Downstairs where everyone was on speed. One scene sticks in the mind – Meek, having been a shut-in, reacts to the windows being opened much as you imagine a vampire would react to being placed on a sun-bed.

Un-subtle doesn’t quite do it justice. It was in super-slow-motion (“Nooooooooooooooooooooo!”), seemed to last for days, and, if I remember correctly, had an entire orchestra playing in the background. I half expected subtitles to pop up: “THIS MAN IS SUFFERING EMOTIONAL TORMENT, AND HE DOES NOT LIKE THE CURTAINS BEING OPENED”.

But the best (ie worst) for my money, must go to Dennis Quaid as Jerry Lee Lewis in Great Balls of Fire! (which came with a free exclamation mark, presumably so you knew to shout it at the person who sold you the cinema ticket on your way out).

It doesn’t bode well when the director claims he only used a book on Lewis’s life as a “jumping off point” (translation: I’m going to make up a load of stuff because it’s easier that way), and the result was little more than a medley of his songs, done with all the questioning intensity of a informercial, with Quaid playing Lewis as little more than a grinning idiot with a craaaaaazy! side to him. To even call it a biopic is like calling Mamma Mia! a biopic of ABBA.

But enough about my biopic bug-bears. What about yours?