A Ramones biopic — that being a film that sounds inherently cartoonish in the first place — would be nothing without the band’s music and the leeway to find great talent. An independent production based on the book I Slept with Joey Ramone, written by Joey’s brother Mickey Leigh and punk chronicler Legs McNeil (to be published this December), has slowly been gaining ground. But now Fox Searchlight is negotiating a buy-in, which could change a lot of things.
THR reports the deal, and rightly suggests that Fox Searchlight’s clout could give the movie some momentum. Producer Rory Rosegarten has been going it alone for a while, negotiating rights buys for both the book and the music of the Ramones. That’s one place where the Fox Searchlight buy-in could get complicated; any studio/distributor is going to be wary of rights deals negotiated by someone else. And if you’re telling the story of the Ramones from the beginning, realistically it would be useful to have the rights to a lot of other early punk bands as well. Because of the expense involved there (ironic now how a subculture once dismissed as trash now costs a fortune to license) I’d expect this film to be a tunnel-vision view of the band.
And honestly, I’d be perfectly happy if the Ramones stayed off the biopic bus. They’re goofy enough when playing themselves (see Rock’n’Roll High School) and I can’t imagine the level of caricature that might be witnessed should we find Nic Cage in a shaggy bowl cut impersonating Joey Ramone. The band earned a lot of cred and dignity through sheer force of will and staying power, and I’d rather just stick with the good but not great documentary End of the Century. (Then again, I would have said I’d rather not see a Joy Division biopic, either, and Control did a great job with Ian Curtis. So…)
As THR synopsizes:
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John Cummings, Jeffrey Hyman, Thomas Erdelyi and Douglas Colvin were the four key members of the Ramones, going by the names Johnny, Joey, Tommy and Dee Dee Ramone. Formed in Queens, NY, in 1974, the four (unrelated) musicians became cult symbols and fathers of the punk movement, attaining little commercial airplay but heavily influencing modern music with songs like “I Wanna Be Sedated,” “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Rockaway Beach” and “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend”.