Singer/songwriter biopics generally make for great awards season fodder (see: the upcoming Rocketman, featuring Tom Hardy as Elton John). However, of late the sub-genre has started expanding to also cover the equally tumultuous lives and times of the record executives behind famous musicians (who are sometimes just as mad… er, artistically temperamental as the artists they back).
David Mamet and HBO’s Phil Specter – starring Al Pacino as the infamous music business legend behind the “Wall of Sound” technique – earned 11 Primetime Emmy nominations; and now, Justin Timberlake’s planning to dramatize the life of Neil Bogart in a new cinematic memoir, Spinning Gold. The project was announced back at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, with J-Timb also onboard as a producer alongside Mark Damon (2 Guns), Laurence Mark (Dreamgirls) and Gary A. Randall (The Glades).
THR is reporting that Spike Lee has begun early talks for him to direct Spinning Gold, drawing from a script written by Bogart’s screenwriting son, Timothy Scott Bogart (Touched, Conspiracy). Interestingly, T.S. Bogart isn’t the only party involved with Spinning Gold who has a personal connection to the film’s subject, as producer Mark Damon actually got his career going by working at Bogart’s Casablanca Records and Filmworks.
Bogart, for those not familiar, was a singer (briefly) turned music industry mogul, who played a key role in the rise of bubblegum pop music and helped to foster the careers of 1960s/70s music icons like Curtis Mayfield, Bill Withers, KISS and The Village People (among other superstars), before he died of cancer and lymphoma in 1982 (when he was just 39 years old). Spinning Gold is being sold as a updated take on the classic rags-to-riches formula, since it follows Bogart from his time growing up in the housing projects in Brooklyn, through to his success as an adult (and dramatically-ironic premature death).
Lee’s American remake of the Japanese comic book-turned Korean cult classic film Oldboy (How’s that for mixed influences?) hits theaters in just under a month and, based on early footage and discussions, it seems as though the controversial project could be a return-to-form for the Oscar-nominee (in the department of fiction-based features that get a theatrical release, anyway). The director is no stranger to making films about either real-life figures (Malcolm X) or troubled musicians (Mo’ Better Blues), so he seems a good pick to realize Bogart’s story on the big screen with passion (hopefully, Lee will leave his cynical preachiness at home).
As for Timberlake: he’s neither managed to play the everyman protagonist role well nor sell tickets in the process (see: In Time, Runner Runner), but he has delivered solid work in purer character roles, like the eccentric Sean Parker in The Social Network or his role as a clean-nosed musician in the upcoming Coen Brothers’ film, Inside Llewyn Davis. In that sense, he may prove to be a good choice to play Mr. Bogart.
More on Spinning Gold as the story develops.