Authorized Jimi Hendrix Biopic

Just as John Ridley’s unauthorized Jimi Hendrix biopic Jimi: All Is By My Side is playing SXSW, the late musician’s estate has moved to develop a new authorized Jimi Hendrix biopic. This isn’t the first time there has been a move to make a film with the blessing of the estate. At one point Legendary founder Thomas Tull nearly had Anthony Mackie set to star and Paul Greengrass to direct on a project that would have featured the full suite of Hendrix songs. But the estate balked and the movie died on the vine.

Now the estate has signed with a new agency and Deadline reports that the machinery is in motion to create an authorized biopic. Reading between the lines this sounds more like a big commercial for Hendrix songs than a film that will really get into the down and dirty details. If you just want to see a name actor pretending to play Hendrix songs in a movie, this will very probably be the project for you.

That said, Ridley’s film All Is By My Side does not have to worry about keeping the Hendrix estate happy (and doesn’t get to use his songs) but isn’t exactly a scathing look at the player. If anything, that film suggests that outside the all-too-typical rock star excesses of drink, drugs, and bouts of alcohol-fueled anger, this was a guy who mostly wanted to hang out and play music. Hendrix’s early years have good story elements — a stint in the military, several high-profile backing gigs, and the development of his unique playing style — but they’re not the most dramatic story points.

Someone else could likely wring more drama out of the story than Ridley does, but with the estate looking on, the focus will probably be on musical genius rather than personal failures. Ultimately what most viewers want is something in between these two poles — a film that has the freedom to be a little more ugly than the estate wants, but which can be enlivened by Jimi’s music. Fingers crossed that’s what this effort produces.

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