The highly anticipated biopic Straight Outta Compton, which tells the nearly unbelievable story of the World’s Most Dangerous Group, N.W.A., finally arrives this week. After much promotion and ballyhooing (and a brand new Dr. Dre album out of nowhere), at last, we get to see the story of the young men who dared to say “F*ck Tha Police” and push back against the injustices going on in their neighborhoods and in their lives.
But all of this got us pondering what other films about musicians we’d like to see. There are so many artists who have led thrilling lives and made music that’s changed the world, whose stories have yet to be told.
So, we at Uproxx Music combined our powers with Vince Mancini from Film Drunk to come up with a list of the 11 musician biopics we’d like to see made right away, and who should be cast to play their biggest roles. Note: We excluded anyone who has a biopic somewhere actively in development, as well as anyone who’s had a high-profile documentary made about them recently (sorry, Kurt Cobain, Nina Simone, and Amy Winehouse). Who do you want to see a film made about? Leave your answers in the comments.
Guns N’ Roses
Why We’d Like To See It: People point to Guns N’ Roses as one of the last great rock bands, in the traditional sense – the idea of fame and fortune and excess and all of the stereotypes that come with that. The story would almost be cliché at this point, if all of it weren’t absolutely true from these guys. Still, when GNR approached the stage, everyone listened. There story has yet to be told on the big screen, and it would bring the house down. – Michael Depland
Who Would Play The Part(s)?: This is a tough one. I don’t know if this is a real answer, but I can’t stop picturing Miles Teller as Slash and laughing about it. I at least want this as a Photoshop. I wish Devon Sawa was a little younger, he could kill it as Axl. Let’s say Michael Pitt as Axl, he has pale eyes and looks kind of sexy-but-evil. He doesn’t have Axl’s baritone speaking voice though. – Vince Mancini
Why We’d Like To See It: For a genre filled with larger-than-life personalities, there were very few who were more creative, raucous, thoughtful, and loved than the Beastie Boys. As far as a biopic would go, it’s easy to fetishize the License to Ill-era of their career, but, sonically, as well as spiritually, they grew so much in the ’90s and still managed to hold on to their fanbase. With the right actors, this could be incredible. If only Nathanial Hornblower were still around to direct it. – MD
Who Would Play The Part(s)?: Michael Rapaport as Mike D is the only one I’m dead certain of. Maybe Aaron Paul as Ad-Rock. – VM
Why We’d Like To See It: This one’s tricky. The purple one has already possibly one of the greatest music movies of all-time in Purple Rain. Yes, maybe it’s great for the wrong reasons, but the music is undeniable. Prince’s catalog is one of the strongest possibly in pop music history, yet his life story is shrouded in secrecy. Hollywood would definitely do this incredible figure of music history proud with a proper biopic. – MD
Who Would Play The Part(s)?: I’m seeing Eddie Redmayne for this one. He has the same slight build, and it combines his two favorite things: an over-the-top flamboyant character, and an ostentatious personal transformation. More real answer: Ezra Miller. There aren’t too many actors who fit the “tiny, androgynous sexy dude” bill better than Ezra Miller. – VM
UPDATE: Okay, clearly I accidentally whitewashed Prince, and the commenters were right to call me out on it. I rescind my previous answer and say Jaye Davidson from The Crying Game. – VM
Why We’d Like To See It: This is another one where people think they know the story, but really only know a very small piece of it. Lou Reed‘s time in the Velvet Underground with Andy Warhol at the Factory was fascinating, no doubt. But he led a long and winding path of creativity, experimentation, highs, lows, and breakthroughs. He also was known to be a difficult man at times – that’s important to note in these kinds of films, when it’s easy to simply make a jukebox movie of an artist’s greatest hits. To have Lou Reed show his character would do well to humanize an often misunderstood man. Plus, they could cover two of the strangest albums of all-time in Metal Machine Music and Lulu. – MD
Who Would Play The Part(s)?: Oscar Isaac (assuming this is about a younger Lou Reed). They have that same bug-eyed/haunted quality to them, and I’d watch Oscar Isaac in pretty much anything. The difficulty here would be that Oscar Isaac might be too good a singer. – VM
Why We’d Like To See It: Someone like Dolly Parton has everything you could want in a biopic… humble beginnings from nothing, a charming, one-of-a-kind personality, and a knockout voice. For someone who encountered so many roadblocks from meatheaded men in the industry, Dolly bulldozed right through them without even breaking a sweat. She’s got so many encounters that color her rich life, it seems like the kind of story that would leap off the scream. – MD
Who Would Play The Part(s)?: I think people would be tempted to cast a blonde with big boobs here, like Kate Upton or Charlotte McKinney, but the truth is, pretty much anyone in a giant wig and a waterbra could play Dolly Parton. This is going to sound weird, but Rose Byrne. She and young Dolly have a similar mouth and eyebrows. I could also see Annaleigh Ashford (more for personality), but it could just be that I’m in love with Annaleigh Ashford. – VM
Why We’d Like To See It: An artist like Marilyn Manson has always been a big-picture guy. Truthfully, he was the last rocker to actually scare parents and teachers and make the genre seem dangerous. And, as one of hard rock’s true characters and provocateurs, he’s certainly had a story to tell in terms of being protested, blamed for the Columbine shootings, and being on top of the pop world, despite making music totally upstream of what was mainstream. – MD
Who Would Play The Part(s)?: I don’t know if I want to live in a world where Marilyn Manson gets a biopic. That said, definitely Jared Leto, if only to see the kind of method crap he would pull. – VM
Why We’d Like To See It: Yes, we’ve seen the origins of B. Rabbit, but Eminem’s life has been even stranger than (historical) fiction. Just like superhero movies, we don’t need an origin story here. We know how it all began because it’s been told and told well. But what was going on in his head when he was the most beloved and hated man in America all at once? What about his struggles with substance abuse and ultimate bounceback? How did he cope with being this enormous mainstream star when he just wanted to be a rapper? It could all make for a compelling tale way down the road. – MD
Who Would Play The Part(s)?: I’ve already seen this movie. It’s called 8 Mile and I watch it every single time it’s on cable. I don’t want to see anyone but Eminem play Eminem.
EMINEM: Do you ever wonder at what point when you gotta just say “f*ck it,” man? Like when you gotta stop living up here and start living down here?
FAT GUY FROM BALLERS: …It’s seven in the morning, dog.
I love that movie so much. – VM
Why We’d Like To See It: For such a transformative and challenging figure in pop music, the idea of a Madonna film has the deep potential to be a Lifetime movie. But, if handled with care and done smartly, it could be a fantastic biopic. People forget that she was the biggest star on Earth for two decades strong. You don’t stay on top for that long without a few stories to tell. – MD
Who Would Play The Part(s)?: Cara Delevingne? All I can think about it is how much I don’t want to see a Madonna movie. – VM
Why We’d Like To See It: The Clash have always been elevated as the intellectual’s punk band. Hell, when you were referred to as “The Only Band That Matters,” it certainly shows your standing in the rock n’ roll world. Their music has long had an impact in film, being used across countless soundtracks, but their story has gone largely untold. Starting out as another band in the wild mix of England’s punk boom, they exploded with the unlikely path of reaching out to the common man, which was the antithesis of what made a rock band huge at the time. – MD
Who Would Play The Part(s)?: This one’s tough, because I’ve listened to The Clash a million times, but I’ve rarely watched anything with them or looked at pictures. A young John Cusack would’ve worked as Joe Strummer, I think. These days… maybe Lee Pace. Mick Jones is tough – he’s kind of swarthy yet British, and is thicker than most actors. Dominic West would’ve been perfect if he was younger. Maybe a bulked-up Jim Sturgess? And Domhnall Gleeson or Jamie Bell as Topper Headon, for sure. – VM
Why We’d Like To See It: It’s funny, David Bowie is a good enough actor that he could probably play himself in his own biopic. But, honestly, the Thin White Duke’s tale should be told. His time on top during the late ’60s through the late ’70s was an incredible run of self-expression and self-destruction all at once. And, besides, it would be worth it to see what it was really like when he made “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth” with Bing Crosby alone. – MD
Who Would Play The Part(s)?: Benedict Cumberbatch. Final answer. He’d have to lose some weight, but no one else makes me think “weird-looking guy with sexy voice” quite like Cumberbatch. – VM
The Rolling Stones
Why We’d Like To See It: This is THE rock n’ roll story. Bar none. It’s almost too big of a story to tell. When you’ve been consistently living the lifestyle for six decades like The Rolling Stones have, there’s so much to mine from. Almost too much, honestly. While there have been several incredible documentaries on the band, there hasn’t been anything in the way of a picture that fully tells their story. Perhaps because it’s still being told. With rock royalty like this, careful casting would be key. – MD
Who Would Play The Part(s)?: Johnny Depp as Keith Richards is the obvious choice. Let’s go Steve Buscemi as Mick Jagger. – VM