On Friday, a new movie about the life of Elton John, Rocketman, will open in theaters. It’s the first big biopic about a musician to be released since the worldwide blockbuster success of 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody. (I’m not counting the misbegotten adaptation of The Dirt, Motley Crue’s salacious memoir, that appeared on Netflix earlier this year, and was promptly panned and forgotten.) More biopics about famous musicians are on the horizon, including movies about David Bowie, Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, and Celine Dion.
While I haven’t seen any of those movies yet, including Rocketman, I’m confident that the following two things are true: 1) They are probably going to be bad, because biopics about musicians are almost always bad; 2) I will enjoy watching them, because I’m a sucker for music biopics, especially if they’re bad. (Even The Dirt!)
I’ve seen so many music biopics that I think I’m pretty good at coming up with new ideas for music biopics. Here are eight of them, listed in order from “this would definitely work” to “this is kind of stupid but it would still definitely work.”
1. Go Your Own Way: The Fleetwood Mac Story
How has this movie not already been made? Perhaps because there’s too much story for a two or three-hour movie? You would have to make a Game Of Thrones-style TV show to tells the full story of Fleetwood Mac. Even the stuff that the average music fan doesn’t know about Fleetwood Mac is fascinating. The Peter Green years could be its own season. The Bob Welch years could also be a season. And then there are Mac’s glory years — you’ll need at least 12 episodes to do justice to the soap opera that unfolded during the making of Rumours. And then there’s the making of Tusk, which was nearly as tumultuous. I want an entire episode about Lindsey Buckingham doing blow and writing “The Ledge!”
Another thing in Fleetwood Mac’s favor: This band has an abundance of good movie/TV show titles, whether you want to go tragic (“Little Lies”), ironic (“You Make Loving Fun”), or dreamy (“Dreams”).
2. Trouble Man: The Marvin Gaye Story
Various people have been trying to make this one for years. (Apparently, Dr. Dre currently has a Marvin Gaye biopic in development.) It’s obvious why the subject is so attractive — Marvin Gaye is a musical genius whose biggest hits are still well-known more than 30 years after his death. (The soundtrack alone would be amazing and probably a big seller, especially if you included contemporary songs that have borrowed heavily from Gaye over the years.) Gaye was also a tremendously troubled man who was murdered by his own father one day before his 45th birthday. His life was imbued with the sort of larger-than-life drama that simply can’t be made up. Whether a mainstream movie could do that story justice without significant white-washing is another question. But here’s a good place to start: Cast Lakeith Stanfield as Marvin!
3. I’m Not The Innocent: The Real Life Adventures of Britney Spears
A famous Rolling Stone cover story from 2008 declared that the queen of ’90s teen pop’s rise and fall was an “American tragedy.” Eleven years later, it’s still not easy being Britney. She recently filed a restraining order against her ex-manager, and also posted a photo of herself in a bikini to prove that she controls her own Instagram. It’s still unclear whether Britney’s story is still tragedy or ultimately redemptive. (What is clear is that the movie has to open with Britney Spears shaving her head in 2007 and then unfold as a flashback.) But if you cast Brie Larson in the lead role, Britney Spears could be Oscar bait.
4. I Am Trying To Break Your Heart: The Biopic
I’ve been pushing this idea about turning the 2002 Wilco documentary into a biopic for years. If you’ve ever run into me at a bar after midnight, I’ve probably given you the elevator pitch. Unfortunately, this ultimate version of this movie can’t happen now, because Philip Seymour Hoffman is no longer with us and he was born to play Jay Bennett. (Maybe Jason Segel could alter his David Foster Wallace impersonation slightly and make it work for Bennett? I’m open to better suggestions if you have them.) Otherwise, I like Peter Sarsgaard as Jeff Tweedy and Elijah Wood as Glenn Kotche. I can’t wait to see a dramatic re-enactment of the “Jeff Tweedy pukes after arguing about the mix of ‘Heavy Metal Drummer’ with Jay Bennett” scene!