Does David Bowie Biopic ‘Stardust’ Benefit From Being Unofficial?
Johnny Flynn, who plays David Bowie in the new biopic Stardust, said the production benefited from its unofficial status.
He argued that it offered more freedom to explore a “responsible” story with the aim of “humanizing” Bowie – but he admitted he hadn’t wanted to take the role when it was first offered to him.
“When it first came to me, I was, I was not at all interested in, you know, another rock star biopic,” Flynn told Exclaim in a new interview. “And an earlier version of the scripts seem to be more like that. And I kind of thought is was a poison chalice, you know? Who the fuck wants to play David Bowie, who is a hero of mine and lots of people?” That changed when he met director Gabriel Range. “[H]e was taking the story in a very different direction – he wanted it to be this tiny moment in time. That really wasn't a jukebox musical in the style of some of the other recent roadster biopics and stuff.”
Stardust is set during Bowie’s first visit to the U.S. and details the problems he encountered and the realizations he made before he secured success. “[I]t’s just about what it is to be a young artist figuring stuff out,” Flynn said. “And I was fascinated to learn the stuff that I did about Dave. I have the records and I know some of the headlines, but I don't know a lot of the things.”
He continued: “In lots of ways, not being an official estate-backed studio film with a big budget is an asset. It is more the kind of film I'm interested in seeing… the kind of genesis films for the journey of an artist, and just like a prism in which to then see the rest of his life through. So you understand this one moment in his life, and it makes sense of a lot of other things.”
He reported that they’d never even asked Bowie’s estate for approval, and referred to comments by the late icon’s son, Duncan Jones, who’d pointed out there was none of his father’s music in the movie. “That's true, but to my mind he wasn't condemning the film,” the actor said. “I think he wouldn't necessarily be that offended by it if he saw it. Hopefully not at all. We're not trying to destroy anybody's idea of David with it. We're hopefully kind of augmenting a perspective of him and humanizing him, which I think is a responsible thing to do when we when we talk about great artists.”
Flynn had previously said he expected to receive “flak” from Bowie fans, but regretted that people were slating a production they’d never seen; and he compared what was happening to Stardust to what had happened to Bowie in his early days. “[E]ven these great innovators, these great artists, they started somewhere,” he said, reflecting that it was valuable to be reminded that while future icons were trying to find their voices, “people were attacking them all the time and cutting them down.”
He continued: “I did this film as much as anything to say, 'Come on, we've got to give everybody a break. We have to allow people artistic freedom.' And ironically, the film, which is a bold story, has been cut down by those same people with the same attitude of like, 'No, you can't do that.' Which, in and of itself, feels like vindication for the ideas behind making the film.”
Stardust is currently available to rent or buy via iTunes.