With a new John Lennon movie garnering praise, here are the music biopics we covet.
1) Ozzy Osbourne
Why make it: Before he was a mumbling, semi-endearing, reality-television dad, Ozzy was the Prince of Darkness. The man did a lot of drugs, snorted a line of ants on a dare, bit the head off a dove, and helped create heavy metal. He also had a rough childhood in a hard-up, working-class family. He dealt with learning disabilities and abusive teachers. He was a rebel, but he was also just another struggling kid. And the earliest appearance of his musical talent would kill on screen: a teenage Ozzy starred in a school production of The Pirates of Penzance.
Casting call: Rumor has it that an Ozzy flick is in the works with Colin Farrell potentially playing the lead. I can't think of a better actor for the role, between his off-screen lifestyle and amazing performances in smaller films like In Bruges.
2) Sinead O'Connor
Why make it: Controversy makes a good story, and very few artists have been as outspoken in their controversial beliefs as O'Connor. She tore up a picture of the Pope on S.N.L. to protest the church's stance on sexual abuse. She shaved her head after record executives told her to be more feminine. She sings about child abuse, which she experienced firsthand, women's rights, war, and sexuality. She has bipolar disorder, has attempted suicide, and had enough run-ins with the law as child that she was sent to an asylum for wayward women. She's been an outspoken advocate not only for women, but for anyone who feels different or alone.
Casting call: Knee-jerk reaction is going to be to cast Natalie Portman — I mean, her shaved head from V for Vendetta has already inspired a band name. Still, I think Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald (No Country for Old Men, Boardwalk Empire) or even Alison Lohman (Drag Me to Hell) would be great.
Why make it: Very few artists have been as brilliant, as prolific, or as inadvertently hilarious as Prince Rogers Nelson. From the shores of Lake Minnetonka to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the man is not only a music icon, but spent years as a literal symbol. Besides that, he's a potent yet ambiguous sex symbol, had epilepsy as a child, and keeps most of his life a secret (despite the semi-autobiographical nature of Purple Rain).
Casting call: Unfortunately, nobody would be able to take Dave Chappelle seriously, which leaves a short-haired, mustachioed Halle Berry as my top pick.
4) Tupac Shakur
Why make it: Because it still hasn't been made! Tupac's life and death are deeply connected to race, poverty, politics, police brutality, and vicious gang violence. His story would be an engaging way to explore these issues. Plus, when it turns out he's still alive, the sequel will write itself.
Casting call: Apparently, a script for the potential biopic is just now in the works, which means they have plenty of time to get Michael B. Jordan (The Wire, Friday Night Lights) up to speed.
5) Ella Fitzgerald
Why make it: Louis Armstrong will get all the jazz press when Forest Whitaker plays him in the biopic set for 2012, but Ella Fitzgerald, who grew up idolizing Louis, was equally interesting and talented. Her difficult childhood included her mother's sudden death, her stepfather's abuse, placement in an orphanage, some time spent homeless, and working both in a brothel (but not like that — she was a lookout) and for some known Mafia affiliates. Yet she still rose to greatness, and left us with one of the most recognizable voices in recorded music.
Casting call: Rather than go with someone already known, I think this would be a great opportunity to have a new voice and actress brought into the public eye and ear. All I'm saying is: please don't cast Rihanna.
6) Hank Williams
Why make it: Hank Williams didn't just establish modern country music, he lived it. Women, whiskey, and money troubles practically define the genre, and Hank had them all: two wives, hard financial times, and a drug and alcohol problem that eventually killed him at only twenty-nine. He also suffered from spina bifida, which doesn't get nearly as much play in country music, despite some great rhyming potential. Even though he couldn't read or write music, his songs have influenced generations of musicians across genres, and have been covered by legends ranging from Bob Dylan to Tony Bennett.
Casting call: It's time for Friday Night Lights' Zach Gilford to go from QB-1 of the Dillon Panthers to a leading man on the silver screen. He's got the charisma, the accent, and the confidence to do a great job. But maybe give Patrick Fugit a call just in case.
7) Tom Waits
Why make it: Much like the Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There, any movie about fellow self-mythologizer Tom Waits would have to be a mixture of facts and legend. Alleys, whiskey joints, Saturday nights, jazz, soul, love, heartbreak — all could be painted into the portrait of Tom Waits' America.
Casting call: You have to go with a massive cast here, each playing an incarnation of Waits and the characters that populate his songs. Obviously, Jim Jarmusch would direct.
Why make it: Liam and Noel Gallagher were abused children, delinquent teens, and finally, leaders of one of the biggest bands on the planet. Theirs is a story of feuding brothers, power struggles, anger, jealousy, and rock 'n roll.
Casting call: James McAvoy (as Noel) and Cillian Murphy (as Liam).
9) The Replacements
Why make it: A biopic about The Replacements would be as much about hearsay as it would be about reality. Like their music, the band's raucous persona hid a bashful sensitivity. Their drunken sets and band hijinx (read: felonies) are the stuff of indie-rock legend. Did they actually try to steal their own master tapes and dump them into the Mississippi? Were they actually banned from Saturday Night Live? Did Paul Westerberg really fall off the back of a stolen motorcycle and get away with telling the police that he'd been kidnapped? (Yes, yes, and maybe.) They were a band that most people agree self-destructed before reaching their full potential, yet their stories and music continue to resonate for musicians and fans alike.
Casting call: I realize it sounds like some kind of zen mantra, but for most movies these days, I keep simply repeating, "Please no Shia." Otherwise, go wild with the casting. Paul Rudd would be great for the later years.
10) Dave Grohl
Why make it: I know, I know: "Really? Dave Grohl?" But from drumming for Nirvana to fronting the Foo Fighters, Grohl's been extremely successful and surprisingly wide in his range. Beyond the Foo Fighters and their growth as a group, Grohl has numerous side projects, including Them Crooked Vultures with Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones and Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme. His story would be an entertaining ride with one of the funnier, more down-to-earth rockers around, but it would also be a unique and less predictably "mythic" angle on the Kurt Cobain grunge-messiah story. It'd be like the Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead of rock movies.