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Ideas for Music Biopics

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Not only did the success of “Ray” launch Jamie Foxx into the stratosphere, but it may also fuel a new round of films about famous musicians. Biopics in general are connecting with audiences this year. “The Aviator,” “Kinsey,” “Finding Neverland” and “The Motorcycle Diaries” were all based on real people who became famous. We like to see them as real people, witness their problems and have the ups and downs of their careers dramatized.

The lurid and lavish lifestyles of rock stars are tailor made for the screen. Their rise from obscurity to fame, and often back to obscurity makes for the perfect three-act story. The good times with the girls, drugs and swagger provide viewers with some wish fulfillment. Then comes the eventual downfall, which we are all conditioned to expect from VH1’s “Behind The Music.” But there have been relatively few film biographies of musicians. Jim Morrison, Sid Vicious, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis and Sinatra come to mind. But why not Zeppelin, the Stones, Floyd, the Dead?

This may change thanks to “Ray,” which swept both the Grammys and Oscars. Producers should see the opportunity to bridge the two lucrative worlds of music and movies. The people who saw Ray went out to the stores to discover his music. If he had not died during the film’s production, there is no doubt Ray Charles would be embarking on a tour that would be one of the year’s most successful. This for an artist who has not been mainstream for at least 30 years.

The long delayed Janis Joplin film is moving towards production, as is one about her partner in overdose, Jimi Hendrix to be portrayed by Andre 3000 from Outkast. This provided the idea to explore other artists who fit the “Ray” template.

Stevie Wonder – Majorly respected, his influence over R&B is massive plus as blind as Ray Charles. Automatic Oscars for costume design and hairstyles.
Casting Choice – Jamie Foxx (let him play all blind superstars)

James Brown – His wife beating, PCP abuse, legendary dance moves and cameo in “Rocky IV” are longing for the big screen treatment.
Casting Choice – Chris Tucker

B.B. King – Legend with decades and decades of smoky blues joint tales, including guitar duels with the devil…..wait, wasn’t that “Crossroads” with Ralph Macchio?
Casting Choice – Morgan Freeman

David Bowie – Spiders from Mars, bisexuality and a marriage to an African supermodel plus lots of glitter outfits.
Casting Choice – Owen Wilson

Freddie Mercury – Flamboyant as they come, requiring a versatile star to portray 70s era craziness and death from AIDS in 1991. The Oscars love tragedy.

Steve Perry – Don’t be a snob. The perfectly mediocre journey of Journey’s lead singer deserves a shot. Their hits will remain prom dance songs and muzak at malls for the next thousand years.
Casting Choice – John Lequizamo

For more, check out my site, Culture Drift

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About Chip Ross

  • I like the ideas — good post. Not so sure about your casting choices though.

    I’d love to see a Led Zep or Stones biopic. Call me nuts, but I think George Clooney would be an excellent choice to direct. “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” did a bang-up job of bringing surreal 60s / 70s wackiness to the screen.

  • The casting choices were kind of a goof, except for Morgan Freeman as BB King. I think that is perfect casting and a movie I’d pitch to any producer that would listen.

    On my web site I have pictures of the casting choices side by side with the musician. Chris Tucker’s hair in “Fifth Element” is good for James Brown.

    I think we really see more of these films. Especially as kids that grew up on 70s/80s music get older. For instance, there has been talk of a Motley Crue story with Nikki Sixx hoping that Brad Pitt would play him. I think he’d be too old, and too pretty though.

  • Freeman could make a good BB, except he would have to put on some major lbs. first.

    And I think Tucker could make for a fine James Brown… but he could use another 10 years on him yet.

  • Might be better to stick with dead people for these biopics, especially the more controversial characters.


  • Trac y

    Love the Steve Perry choice, he is a Rock God and would be awesome to see a story on his life. Love him!!!!!!

  • veronica

    I’ve always thought that Jay Z looks a lot like Robert Johnson. If he learned to played guitar….