Walking the Line

More music biopics? Good. Bad musicians starring in them? Not so much.

Whether it's the story of a musician's rise, fall and possible redemption or a flavors-of-the-moment soundtrack in a lame teen comedy, film and music have gone together like popcorn and Junior Mints, fountain drinks and whiskey flasks or baggy pants and smuggled candy. The commercial success of music biopics Ray and Walk the Line and the critical acclaim for overrated director Gus Van Sant's Kurt Cobain-inspired Last Days ensure that Hollywood's trend-chasing producers will green-light similar films in the foreseeable future.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, as biopics are in the works for three icons of American pop music, and their lives (and tragic age-27 deaths) all have the makings of fantastic movies. Unfortunately, rather than let capable actors handle the task, studios have given irrelevant pop stars chance-of-a-lifetime starring roles. That mistake is probably why all three have languished in preproduction for years: Filmmakers realize that it will be difficult for audiences to suspend disbelief as their biopic stars fall into old habits.

Sean "Puff '[P.] Diddy' Daddy" Combs reportedly signed on to play legendary bluesman Robert Johnson in an HBO original, Love in Vain. In Combs' portrayal, however, Johnson confuses his audience by announcing a name change after every song and "creating" his own compositions from the songs of earlier blues masters Son House and Charley Patton. Combs also insists on rewriting the script to explain that Johnson's brief discography was due not to his death by poisoning, but rather because the early-20th-century bluesman was too busy starting clothing lines, running marathons and allegedly bribing other bluesmen to claim ownership of weapons.

Lenny Kravitz has reportedly secured the rights to use Jimi Hendrix's music in an independent bio film. Over the years, Hendrix's estate has vetoed the use of his music in potential flicks starring Eddie Murphy, Laurence Fishburne and Andre 3000--apparently, because they couldn't portray Hendrix as well as a heavily tattooed, 41-year-old non-actor. If Kravitz's cover of the terrible-to-begin-with "American Woman" is a template for what he might do to a Hendrix song, it's not hard to imagine rumored director Marc Forster breaking down in a sobbing mess every night after shooting.

Dueling Janis Joplin films, Alecia "Pink" Moore's The Gospel According to Janis and Renee Zellweger's Piece of My Heart, have been in preproduction for years now. If her movie ever becomes a reality, Pink will oversing, aping the R&B singers she admires. Her performance will be championed by millions of clueless fans who have no idea the wool's being pulled over their eyes. Come to think of it, that might not be such a bad Joplin imitation after all.

 
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