Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Jerry Garcia Pic

My colleague at The Hollywood Reporter reports today that a biopic of Jerry Garcia is in the works.

I don't know how I feel about this.

Of course, I'm thrilled that one of my favorite musicians will have his lifestory told on film, I'm just weary that it will be done in the right way.

According to THR, the yet-untitled film will focus on Jerry's early-life, before he became a household name. While I like this idea, and think it is chock-full of potentially intriguing film scenes (Jerry watched his father drown, had his finger chopped off by his older brother, and nearly died in a car crash - all before his 20th birthday) but I'm also hoping that someone, at some point, decides to tackle the colorful, chaotic and inspiring story of the Grateful Dead, the band I most admire for myriad reasons, and who I saw live in concert more than 25 times.

The movie will be produced by the guys responsible for "Election" and "Little Miss Sunshine" -- two very good films, so I am confident that they can tell a story, and well. But bio-pics, especially ones about rock stars, can easily fall into caricature, and portray their subjects as characters, not people (which I'm sure is how many of their fans view them, but still....) For every "Sid and Nancy" and "Walk the Line," there is also "Great Balls of Fire" and "La Bamba."

As far as rock bio-pics go, I think Oliver Stone's "The Doors" is probably the template most directors have followed since 1991. It was beautifully photographed, amazingly edited and mixed, and well-acted (let's face it, Val Kilmer was Jim Morrison, but he could also be accused of creating a character, not portraying a person). Regardless, as well-received as that movie was, it doesn't mean it was accurate. In fact, I interviewed Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek in 1999 and he told me he hated Stone's movie, and refused to have anything to do with it. I'd have to go back and review the tape for his exact quote, but I vividly recall him referring to the project as "a white-powder film" - which I took as a veiled reference to Stone's rumored coke habit.

Anyway, Jerry's life is hitting the big screen. What a story it will be. The guy was a genius. A lazy, morally lapsed and drug-addicted genius (aren't they all?) but truly an amazing musician.

It still bothers me that Jerry's legacy is unfailingly associated with the 1960s counter-culture era in which he thrived. Sure, hippies, acid, free was all a part of the scene, but listen to the music, man. Just incredible. Thank you, Jer, for a real good time.

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