Remember when Mick Jagger was too bored to continue writing his own autobiography while Keith Richards somehow managed to remember his own life and write a best-selling memoir? Mick Jagger’s life story was somehow too boring. Some people are just more interesting than others, lead singer or not.
This week it was announced that there was to be a Robbie Williams biopic, Better Man, directed by Michael Gracey, who made The Greatest Showman – which is apt. Of course the internet was full of people rolling their eyes and deriding it to let everyone know they’re cool by deriding it. I’ve never been a die-hard Robbie fan and was never that into Take That, (though they did have some bangers) but I’m sure as hell going to watch his biopic. And by the end of this column, I’ll persuade the haters too.
If you’re going to make a biopic about anyone from Take That, it’s going to be Robbie by a country mile. Can you even imagine a film about Gary Barlow? I imagine it would be called Home For Tea – Nothing Too Spicy. Mark Owen’s would be interesting for about 10 minutes then you’d fall asleep, and then the other two could just share one called Fit But Not Really Sure What They Did.
Anyway: who should play Robbie? Alfie Allen, I reckon. Dye his hair dark and you’ve got the look – plus, it’s only fair that the son of ’90s party boy Keith Allen plays another ’90s party boy.
Robbie has everything: the clean boyband start; the breakaway solo career; the drugs, booze and partying (he once joked, “I’m very fortunate I’m one of the only people in the world that can say they’ve been in Take That and four out of five of the Spice Girls,” which explains why you’ve never seen David Beckham and Robbie duet). There’s the long-running feud with Liam and Noel (he and Liam are now at peace, at least), the swing phase, the ‘Are they aren’t they?’ rumours with him and Kylie and Nicole Kidman. And of course his old mate Jonathan Wilkes, who I think now has a cruise ship show and gets wheeled out for Soccer Aid.
And that’s not to mention having his happily-ever-after ending: he’s now married with four kids to American actor Ayda Field. Robbie Williams has gone from having sold-out three nights at Knebworth in 2003 (he sent Noel Gallagher a pair of tap dancing shoes to rub it in that Oasis only sold-out two) to things like Not The Robbie Williams Christmas Show in 2019 – which made me cringe so much I think I was in a ball by the end. What a journey!
My comedy writing partner Rich is a huge Robbie fan. The biggest. When I asked why he loves him so much, he said: ‘Beyond all the charisma and the good looks and his once-in-a generation performance skills, it’s about how honest all his songs are. That’s why he stands out: he confronts himself in almost every song – he’s always the bad guy. He’s blaming himself, analysing himself, parodying himself in a way that would be critically lauded were he not Robbie Williams.
“His songs are so funny – he always knows what he’s doing, even when the people listening don’t. Also he wrote an eight-minute ballad about travelling to Las Vegas with a monkey on rollerblades and fighting a cartel.” (That’s ‘Me And My Monkey’ from 2002’s ‘Escapology’, obvs.
Aside from the great songs (‘Kids’ is one of the best duets ever; ‘Come Undone’ is exceptional; ‘Feel’ is a masterpiece), I love the fact that despite having been one of the biggest stars in the world, Robbie clearly wasn’t listening during media training. As as such, he is always an interesting person to watch. He’s hilarious.
Who can forget Anna Kendrick’s face on The Graham Norton Show as Robbie told the nation that he was wanked off by a woman posing as a cleaner when he was “renting a castle” back in the day? When asked what it was like watching Ayda give birth to their child, he replied: “Like watching my favourite pub burn down.” As a comedian, you wait once a year for a line like that to come to you. Yes, he did also livestream the birth, but you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth.
He’s open about more serious things, too, talking about his struggles with mental health over the years. He once said: “I’ve got a disease that wants to kill me and it’s in my head, so I have to guard against that.” 10 years ago, he openly talked about taking testosterone injections to increase his libido after a doctor told him that his levels were those of “a 100-year-old man”. Can you imagine any other prominent ’90s bad boys saying that?
Yes, Robbie’s honesty is refreshing to the point that it sometimes makes us uncomfortable. But that’s what real pop stars are supposed to do. Like him or loathe him, the Robbie Williams film is one you’ll want to watch. Let him entertain you.