David Bowie | Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
After iconic musicians like Freddie Mercury from Queen and Elton John were given their own epic cinematic biopics, it only seems right that glam rock icon David Bowie will be getting his own too. The upcoming biographical drama Stardust will be the first feature film to be about David Bowie since his untimely death in Jan. 2016.
Actor Johnny Flynn plays David Bowie as he experiments with his new rock star identity after visiting the United States in 1971 and as he goes on to build the famous Ziggy Stardust alter ego. However, the production of Stardust has run into an issue that might have a huge impact on the movie’s success in the box office and among David Bowie’s fans.
While this may come as a shock to David Bowie’s fans, the team behind Stardust expected nothing different. Paul Van Carter, the owner of the film’s production company Salon Pictures, reported to Entertainment Weekly that, “We offered to send the screenplay and make the [Bowie] estate involved in the creative process. We were told there wouldn’t be approval from the estate… the estate doesn’t [typically] license Bowie’s music. We’re not using any Bowie music. We always knew that we weren’t going to.”
Salon Pictures released a statement clarifying the purpose and nature of Stardust, specifically adding that it will not be the same style as the award-winning film Bohemian Rhapsody. The studio added that Stardust was never meant to be a biopic. The film was simply created to capture a formative chapter in David Bowie’s musical career, a chapter that culminated in the vision of David Bowie we have today. In a statement released by Salon Pictures, the studio reported, “We would like to clarify that this film … is a moment in time film at a turning point in David’s life, and is not reliant on Bowie’s music.”
However, the film won’t be entirely without music. Like the film Nowhere Boy, which tells the story of John Lennon’s climb to fame, Stardust will feature music and songs from the era that Bowie covered, but not any of his original tracks.
David Bowie’s son Duncan Jones revealed on Twitter that Stardust does not have any sort of approval or any sort of blessing from 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, & I can’t imagine that changing. If you want to see a biopic without his music or the [family’s] blessing, that’s up to the audience,” Jones tweeted in January 2019.
Jones also mentioned on Twitter that he would love to see Bowie in an animated film collaboration between American Gods and Good Omens creator Neil Gaiman and Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse director Peter Ramsey. Both Gaiman and Ramsey responded by expressing gratitude. Ramsey tweeted back saying, “I second that emotion, I’m a huge Bowie fan.”
Whether or not David Bowie fans will see Stardust on the silver screen without being treated to any of the glam rock star’s famous hits remains to be seen. For now, here’s what we know about the movie Stardust so far.
Actor Johnny Flynn, from Clouds of Sils Maria and National Geographic’s Genius, will be portraying a 24-year-old David Bowie. The studio recently released the first glimpse of Flynn in the role. Actress Jena Malone, from Into the Wild and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, will be playing Bowie’s first wife, Angie. Actor Marc Maron will play Bowie’s publicist, Ron.
Principal photography for Stardust kicked off in June 2019 and an official release date is yet to be announced.
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