david bowie biopic

The other day, we brought you news of a young David Bowie biopic in the works called Stardust. Now, Bowie’s son, filmmaker Duncan Jones, has weighed in, and he doesn’t seem very happy about it. As Jones tells it, the movie doesn’t have any rights to Bowie songs, which means it’ll be a David Bowie movie without David Bowie music. And honestly, does anyone want to see that?

Quick recap: they’re making a young David Bowie movie, starring Johnny Flynn as the rock ‘n’ rollin’ bitch himself. The film focuses on Bowie’s first U.S. tour in 1971, in which he conceived the character Ziggy Stardust. I was immediately skeptical of this idea, because lets be honest – it’s going to be nearly impossible for any actor to capture Bowie’s spirit. That’s one strike against the film. Here’s another: the producers don’t have the rights to any of Bowie’s songs. So says Duncan Jones, Bowie’s son.

There is some precedent for this, I suppose. The 1994 film Backbeat told the story of the Beatles’ early days. Since the film couldn’t get the rights to any Beatles songs, and since the story was set before they became stars, it was able to avoid using any iconic Beatles tracks. But that won’t fly with Stardust. By 1971, Bowie had already released three albums, and the whole reason he was in America was to promote his album The Man Who Sold the World. How can you possibly make a movie about that without using any of his songs?

On top of that, Jones also says that the movie does not have the blessing of Bowie’s family:

“[I’m] not saying this movie is not happening. I honestly wouldn’t know. I’m saying that as it stands, this movie won’t have any of Dad’s music in it and I can’t imagine that changing. If you want to see a biopic without his music or the families blessing, that’s up to the audience.”

Even if you want to ignore the music rights issue, this seems like a pretty big deal. Maybe they should call this whole thing off? Or change the lead character’s name to Bavid Dowie or something like that. Just a suggestion.

When and if Stardust happens, it will also star Jena Malone as Bowie’s ex-wife Angela Barnett, and Marc Maron will play Bowie’s record company publicist. Christopher Bell, writer of the upcoming series The Last Czars, is handling script duties, while Gabriel Rang, the filmmaker behind Death of a President and I Am Slave, is directing.

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