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Pink, Renee Ready To Play Joplin In New Movies
Michelle Solomon, Staff Writer
POSTED: 8:28 p.m. EDT May 3, 2004
From the Celebrity Chatter scrapbook:
Years ago, I played in a Janis Joplin "clone" band. In the 1980s, look-alike bands were all the rage. We were on a triple bill: the Janis band, Jimi Hendrix, sing-alikes and a guy that imitated Jim Morrison and his band, the Doors. We toured New England and played as an opening act for bands like the Joe Perry Project, when Perry was taking a break from Aerosmith.
We lived the rock 'n' roll life and we were popular with crowds. There has always been a keen interest in dead rock stars. A whole cottage industry has thrived on Elvis Presley's death.
Fans would bring us bottles of Southern Comfort (Janis's favorite drink) and tons of roses.
There's something about Joplin that people are drawn to and there has always been talk of putting the legendary singer's life story on the big screen.
Certainly there was "The Rose" in 1979, a thinly veiled bio-pic about a Joplin-like singer played by Bette Midler, but it was only based on the singer and not exactly true to life.
Now there is not one, but two films in the works, about one of Port Arthur, Texas' most famous singers.
Pop singer Pink will play Joplin in "The Gospel According to Janis." The movie is expected to begin shooting this summer and will be released in 2005. Directing the movie is Penelope Spheeris, the woman behind "Wayne's World."And Celebrity Chatter has heard reports that Pink will do most of her own singing in the movie.
Meanwhile, Oscar-winner Renee Zellweger is producing her own movie about Joplin.
Titled, "Piece of My Heart," the film has reportedly been in the works for eight years, but last June, Zellweger came to the film's rescue signing on to produce and star for Paramount Pictures.
Zellweger herself is from Katy, Texas.
"Piece of My Heart" is expected to be in theaters in 2005. Zellweger is currently filming "Cinderella Man" with Russell Crowe in Toronto and is then set to begin shooting "Piece Of My Heart."
Singer Melissa Etheridge was talked about for the lead role in "Piece of My Heart" at one time, but Entertainment Weekly reports that the deal "fell apart due to a disappointing screen test." Brittany Murphy and Courtney Love were also in talks regarding "Heart," and Lilli Taylor was cast in "Gospel," but dropped out when production on the film dragged its feet.
Joplin died of a heroin overdose on Oct. 4, 1970 in a Los Angeles, Calif., hotel at the age of 27.
Hey, anyone out there need a singer from a 1980s Janis Joplin clone band? By the way, the name of the clone band was "Pearl." Now that's a catchy movie title.
By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
June 21, 2003
There are few challenges for an actor more testing than portraying a popular music legend who died in their prime, although several have proved equal to the task. Val Kilmer was an uncanny Jim Morrison in The Doors and Gary Oldman a credible Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy. Now Renee Zellweger is to take the test after agreeing to star as Janis Joplin, the fallen angel of 1960s rock music, who died of a drug overdose 33 years ago at the age of 27. Zellweger does have a few advantages. A Texan, like Joplin, Zellweger is said to have been "obsessed with Janis for years", according to the film's prospective producer Tom Rosenberg. She has also developed a reputation for her ability to transform her waif-like natural appearance to suit her roles - notably the neurotic, overweight, ultra-English Bridget Jones. Zellweger never thought of herself as a singer until she was put through her paces for the recent Oscar-winning film Chicago, a part that won her acclaim including an Academy nomination as best actress. Her interpretation of Roxie Hart, the murderous aspiring nightclub starlet, was nevertheless very far from the beads, kaftans, drugs and audio feedback of the 1960s rock scene in San Francisco. The part must pose an enormous challenge. Joplin was considerably larger even than Bridget Jones, had a fascinating face that was very from conventional notions of beauty, and possessed a unique blues-soul voice that ranged from a screeching wail to the most sensuous of low whispers. Although the film does not have a finished script or a director, it has been put into high gear by Paramount Pictures and is expected to start shooting early next year. Its title, taken from one of Joplin's songs, is Piece Of My Heart. Among other legendary female singers to have been portrayed on the cinema screen are Tina Turner, played by Angela Bassett in What's Love Got to Do with It?
A Film By JOEL L. FREEDMAN
A JOPLIN, LLC. PRODUCTION
LAURA THEODORE as Janis Joplin
ROY SCHEIDER* as Albert Grossman
JENNIFER TILLY* as Alice from Dallas
STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN* as a Hell's Angel
Subject to scheduling and final negotiations.
Supposedly she will star as Janis in the unauthorized Paramount movie.
Movies: Two film companies are fighting for a piece of the blues singer's tragic life.
By Pat H. Broeske, The Hollywood Reporter, Jan 4 1999, Baltimore Sun
LOS ANGELES -- An indelible icon of the '60s, Janis Joplin chugged Southern Comfort on stage, had affairs with women and men and cruised the streets of Los Angeles in a Porsche 365 Cabriolet painted in a far-out psychedelic design.
But the free-spirited blues empress, who died of a heroin overdose at age 27, also talked hopefully of marriage, babies and a home, complete with traditional white-picket fence.
No wonder nearly three decades later she remains such a dichotomy -- and her story continues to tantalize Hollywood.
Although her rise and fall encompassed just four furious years, efforts to make a movie about Joplin's stormy life have spanned more than a quarter century.
That pursuit continues, via dueling Joplin biopics, which have been in on-again, off-again development since early 1996 and are now racing to beat one another to production. One of the movies, currently scheduled to begin shooting next spring, is authorized by the Joplin estate; the other is not.
Both sides are already airing their disagreements. Producers involved with the unauthorized effort, "Piece of My Heart," claim their movie will tell the warts-and-all story, arguing that the rival film will be "candy-coated."
"That's not true!" retorted Nancy Savoca, the writer-director of the yet-untitled authorized venture, who said that when she met with members of the Joplin family, "not one word was said about what we could and couldn't do."
Joplin is not the only rock legend slated for the Hollywood treatment in coming months. Movies are being produced or developed about Otis Redding, Elvis Presley, Brian Wilson, Phil Spector and others.
But the history of the Joplin projects proves just how difficult -- and how desirable -- it is to make movies about rock legends. On one hand, filmmakers like the fact that rock stars often have led dramatic lives and can translate into big box office.
Unfortunately, securing the rights to songs and recorded performances is expensive; they are often held by several different entities.
Filmmakers must placate the star and his or her family members and friends, who often end up disappointed with the results anyway. After initially calling the film "very good," Jerry Lee Lewis later called "Great Balls of Fire," the 1989 flop movie about his own life, "the disaster of the century."
Most troubling for studios, rock biopics have a spotty record. While there have been a few hits -- most notably "La Bamba," a 1987 sleeper about rocker Richie Valens that grossed $54 million -- disappointments include "Why Do Fools Fall in Love," about '50s teen crooner Frankie Lymon that earned just $13 million, and "Selena" (1997), about the slain Tejano singer.
Indeed, some are skeptical whether Hollywood can ever do right by a complicated performer such as Janis Joplin.
"It's so easy to fall for the cliche of the tortured artist," said Ray Manzarek, former keyboardist for the Doors, who is himself a fierce critic of Oliver Stone's movie about the '60s band. "What needs to be found are the motivations -- the real motivations of the real person. And the real meaning behind the music."
A Joplin biopic has been a long time coming.
Born and raised in Port Arthur, Texas, Joplin was 20 when she left college and hitchhiked to San Francisco and its coffeehouse scene of 1963. Three years later, amid the city's musical explosion, she became the singer for the Haight-Ashbury-based band Big Brother & The Holding Company. The band went on to sign with Columbia and record the album "Cheap Thrills," which included the hit single "Piece of My Heart."
Today she is widely perceived as the first female superstar of rock, a trailblazer for Madonna, Janet Jackson and Courtney Love. Because of her drug death, she also became emblematic of the perils wrought by the combination of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll.
"She was the original bad girl," said author Alice Echols, a Sixties historian who spent five years researching Joplin's life for the coming biography, "Scars of Sweet Paradise: The Life and Times of Janis Joplin" (Metropolitan Books).
Pointing to Joplin's stature within the rock world, Echols added, "Her stardom defied all probability. I mean, her face was acne-scarred. She was slightly chunky. She had this frizzy, fly-away hair. Her voice was not conventionally pretty. On top of which, she deliberately lived on the margins."
In a way, Hollywood has already visited the Joplin story.
After reading about newcomer Bette Midler in a 1972 Newsweek cover story, producer Marvin Worth saw her perform in West Hollywood. "And I was so stunned by what I saw, and heard, that I had to find a movie project for her," he once related. Worth optioned Joplin's music with hopes of having Midler portray the rock diva in "The Pearl." The title was borrowed from a Joplin tune and was also the singer's nickname. `The Rose,' instead
but after complications arose with the studios, Worth abandoned the Joplin project and instead made a movie about "a composite character" of the Sixties. For her screen debut in the 1978 film "The Rose," Midler was Oscar-nominated. But the film's parallels to the Joplin story did not go unnoticed, so interest in a real Joplin movie bio tapered off.
"There was this attitude in Hollywood that the Joplin story had already been done," said attorney Bob Gordon, who represented Joplin during her lifetime and today represents her estate's heirs.
But over the years, with the reissue of Joplin's music, her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the use of one of her songs in Mercedes-Benz TV commercials, there was renewed interest in her life rights.
Producer Peter Newman inquired about the rights eight years ago, only to learn they were tied up by theatrical producer Manny Fox.
"Then, about four years ago, they became available. And we immediately called and made a deal," Newman related. In addition to acquiring rights from the Joplin family, and life rights to members of Big Brother & The Holding Company, Newman acquired the rights to most of Joplin's music, and to the 1992 book "Love, Janis," written by Laura Joplin.
Lili Taylor will star in the $15 million movie, and Jonathan Demme will produce it.
Meanwhile, the competing film, put together by producer Marc Frydman and director Marc Rocco, was attracting interest all over Hollywood. Frydman tied up rights to the National Book Award nominee "Buried Alive: The Biography of Janis Joplin," by Joplin's close friend Myra Friedman, who handled the singer's media relations; a script by rock video director Julie Cypher; and, as the star, singer Melissa Etheridge (who happens to be Cypher's girlfriend). Significantly, Frydman also acquired the rights to "Piece of My Heart," at a reported cost of $1.1 million.
The project, with $35 million budget, was then taken to Paramount-based Lakeshore Entertainment, which brought in a different director, Stephen Gyllenhaal ("Home Grown"). Then came script rewrites. And then a third director, Gary Fleder ("Kiss the Girls"). After an evidently disappointing Etheridge screen test, there was also a new star search. The role has yet to be cast.
It's still too early to say which project will be more faithful to Joplin's life or to the spirit of her music. But each side remains confident that the raw material of Janis' life -- raw in every sense of the word -- will be enough to make audiences flock to their film.
Bill Zwecker, December 8, 1998, Chicago Sun-Times
The long-awaited (and frequently postponed) film based on the life of singer Janis Joplin has hit another snag. Melissa Etheridge, who has been attached to the project for more than two years, has backed out due to all the delays. While the film is still on track at Paramount (being produced by Chicago's own Tom Rosenberg's Lakeshore Entertainment), Etheridge's many music commitments have forced her to back out. The singer and songwriter is busy recording her next studio album and plans to set out on a mammoth two-year concert tour to support the CD when it's released next year.
I'm not sure if they're still going to make a Janis movie with Lili or if they're even going to make the movie, but here's a pic of her. I must admit that she kind of looks like Janis, more so in other pictures. -08/04/98
If she were alive today, Janis Joplin might be singing the blues about her prospects for a new big screen biopic. Just a year ago, two projects -- one a Paramount/Lakeshore endeavor, the other a TriStar picture -- were battling each other into production. Now both have taken a turn for the worse. Marc Rocco, who wrote the Paramount movie, has withdrawn from it. Although the film boasts the attachment of rock star Melissa Etheridge, the loss of Rocco ("Murder in the First," "Where the Day Takes You") is a major setback. In the meantime, sources say TriStar has cooled on its version of the life of the legendary singer. That picture, which has Nancy Savoca ("True Love") attached to direct and Lili Taylor ("I Shot Andy Warhol") set to star, is indefinitely on hold. Joplin, who died in a Hollywood hotel in 1970 at age 27, performed such songs as "Piece of My Heart," to which the Lakeshore/Paramount project has exclusive rights, and "Me and Bobby McGee," over which the TriStar project has control. That means the only Joplin project to reach the screen may remain that thinly veiled biopic "The Rose." [Josh Chetwynd]