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Along with the boom of superhero movies and the horror genre among the masses, interest and blockbuster potential of music biopics was made apparent in 2018 with the release of Bohemian Rhapsody. The movie, based on Freddie Mercury’s life with his band Queen, soared to $903 million globally and won four Oscars, including Rami Malek scoring one for his portrayal of the “Killer Queen” frontman. Following its success, plenty more movies about famous musicians are on their way.
In 2019, we had Rocketman tracking Elton John’s life in the form of a musical. What’s next and will any of them top Bohemian Rhapsody’s status as the highest-grossing music biopic of all time? Here are the subjects whose lives are being primed for cinematic study:
The latest news on the music biopic front is a closer look into a defining band for the heavy metal/punk scene with a biopic about Motörhead called Lemmy. The title takes after the band's frontman Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister, who had a notable life, starting off as a roadie for Jimi Hendrix and as a member ofpsychedelic rock band Hawkwing before forming the influential Motörhead with Eddie Clarke and Phil Taylor, who will also be focused on in the film. Lemmy will be directed by Greg Daniels, who previously made a 2010 Motörhead documentary with the same name. He told Deadline he's been developing the project since 2013 with Motörhead’s manager Todd Singerman. Here's what Olliver said about the upcoming biopic:
Everything you’ve heard about Lemmy is probably true… not because he was embracing rock n’ roll clichés, but because he was creating them. Marlboro Reds and Jack Daniel’s for breakfast, speed for dinner – all true. But behind that steely-eyed façade of rock n’ roll was also a compelling, complicated and lion-hearted man who stayed the course and never gave up playing the music that made him happy.
Lemmy is looking at an early 2021 production start date and is sure to give fans of bands such as Megadeath, Metallica and Anthrax context to key history into heavy metal.
James Mangold is directing a movie about Bob Dylan starring Little Women’s Timothée Chalamet. The 24-year-old actor has made a name for himself in the past couple years for his roles in Call Me By Your Name, Beautiful Boy and Lady Bird. According to Deadline, the young actor will portray Bob Dylan at the time when he decided to embrace Rock and ditch his Folk roots. The working title is Going Electric, and it will be directed by the filmmaker behind Logan, Ford v Ferrari and Oscar-nominated Johnny Cash biopic, Walk the Line.
Graham King, the producer of Bohemian Rhapsody, is keeping busy with music biopics with two on the way. The first is a biopic about “Thriller” icon Michael Jackson. The movie is said to span his entire life, including the sexual abuse allegations that recently were explored in HBO’s Leaving Neverland. The movie reportedly “won’t be sanitized.” King obtained access to all of Jackson’s music from his family’s estate and the movie is set to be written by John Logan, who is behind the Oscar-nominated scripts for Gladiator and Hugo, along with Sweeney Todd, Skyfall, Spectre and The Aviator.
The second music biopic in the works from Graham King is one for the Bee Gees! The ‘70s group consisted of three brothers, who are most famously known for their songs on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack including “Stayin’ Alive” and “Night Fever.” The Disco-era movie about the group seems to be not as far along than the one featuring Michael Jackson, but Paramount has purchased the life rights to the Gibb family – therefore leaving the ability for their music library to be featured in the upcoming movie about them.
This one’s expected to come in May of this year. Stardust is a small independent film about a 24-year-old David Bowie’s first tour across the United States back in 1971. Johnny Flynn of Netflix’s Lovesick is playing Bowie, with Jena Malone and Marc Maron also part of the cast This was the time when Bowie was donning a folk-rock aesthetic and he was contemplating the persona of Ziggy Stardust, which would later propel him to later mega-stardom in the ‘70s and ‘80s. However, Bowie’s son Duncan Jones has made it clear he’s not supporting this project, and Stardust doesn’t have the rights to Bowie's music.
Another music biopic coming out in 2020 is Respect, which is about the legendary R&B vocalist, Aretha Franklin. The late singer picked Jennifer Hudson to play her years prior, and the movie has finally gotten off the ground and is coming on August 14. Along with Hudson, Forest Whitaker is playing her civil rights activist preacher father; Marlon Wayans will portray her first husband, Ted White; and Mary J. Blige will be Dinah Washington. Respect is directed by Liesl Tommy, who previously helmed episodes of Insecure and Jessica Jones.
Baz Luhrmann, the famed director of Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby and Romeo + Juliet, is finally returning to the director’s chair for the first time in over five years to make a film on the life of Elvis Presley. Television actor (and recently seen in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) Austin Butler is portraying “The King,” beating out Harry Styles, Ansel Elgort and Miles Teller for the role. Tom Hanks has been rumored to be playing Elvis’ manager “Colonel Tom” Parker, who had a controlling hold on the singer’s life. The movie is expected to start shooting soon in Queensland, Australia.
In late 2018, the family of the late Amy Winehouse announced a biopic about their daughter was in works over at Monumental Pictures – which has ties to Anne with an E, Harlots and How to Build a Girl. Eight years after the “Back to Black” singer’s death at 27, her family feel the “time was right” to now tell her story on the big screen. Proceeds from the film will reportedly benefit the Amy Winehouse Foundation, which works to prevent the effects of drugs and alcohol on young people, something she famously struggled with and ultimately died from alcohol poisoning. The movie will be written by Kinky Boots’ Geoff Deane.
Back in May 2019, it was announced that a biopic about Boy George was in the works to be written and directed by Sacha Gervasi, who previously worked on Hitchcock, November Criminals and The Terminal. On a radio show, Boy George said he’d like Sophie Turner to play him for the movie. The two do have a serious resemblance! Turner tweeted out “I’m SO down” following his interview, but not much else has been reported about the Boy George movie. The ‘80s icon first became prominent for his hit “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?” with his band Culture Club and has since become a LGBTQ icon.
There’s a lot of music biopics on the way! There's also been brief mentions for movies centered on Bob Marley, Carole King, Celine Dion, Gucci Mane, Madonna, John Lennon and Yoko One. Considering the success of Bohemian Rhapsody, it seems like the interest in the production of these movies are at an all-time high!
Which of these are you most excited to see? Sound off in the comments below and vote in the poll below! Check out five great music biopics to check out if you liked Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman!