Netflix’s The Dirt follows the rise of American rock group Mötley Crüe. Based on the band’s 2001 collaborative autobiography The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band, the musical dramedy recreates the band’s most infamous moments. Still, fans may notice some minor revisionist history.
Directed by Jeff Tremaine, The Dirt takes place mostly in 1980s Los Angeles. Through voiceover narration and “fourth wall” moments, the film introduces the four main players: Douglas Booth as Nikki Sixx, Iwan Rheon as Mick Mars, Colson Baker as Tommy Lee, and Daniel Webber as Vince Neil. In addition, Billions’ David Costabile co-stars as Mötley Crüe’s manager Doc McGhee, and Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson portrays Elektra Records executive Tom Zutaut.
As self-described street kids, Mötley Crüe caused a stir in early ‘80s Hollywood with their glams looks, metal sound, and hard partying. Here is The Dirt’s true story and the minor alterations the Netflix film made.
Nikki Sixx's Rock Origin Story Is Changed In The Dirt
The Dirt highlights the difficult childhood of Frank Feranna aka Nikki Sixx. In the Netflix film, an adolescent version of Sixx quarrels with his mother and describes a “revolving door of step-fathers." The narrative then jumps ahead several years to 1978 Los Angeles, where Frank reinvents himself as Nikki Sixx.
In reality, however, a teenaged Frank/Nikki moved to Seattle to live with his estranged mother, this coming after being mostly raised by his grandparents. As recounted in the 2002 VH1 documentary The Rise & Rise of Mötley Crüe, Frank/Nikki began taking music seriously while living with his mother in Washington. In the VH1 doc, friends recall the unhealthy relationship between the wannabe bassist and his mother, which partially inspired Frank's move to Los Angeles and transformation into Nikki Sixx.
Sunset Strip Rock Mythology In The Dirt
In the ’60s and ‘70s, the Whisky a Go Go on Sunset Boulevard was a famous rock music venue, and Mötley Crüe famously lived right around the corner during the early ‘80s. As seen in The Dirt’s post-film credits sequence and all throughout the movie itself, director Tremaine effectively dramatizes many popular Mötley Crüe moments there and beyond.
For all the special attention to rock mythology, however, The Dirt slips up when introducing Davidson’s Zutaut. The scene takes place at the famous Rainbow Bar and Grill on Sunset Boulevard, seemingly to emphasize that Mötley Crüe used to receive oral sex from women under the table. When Davidson’s character first approaches the band, he emphasizes the fact that he’s seen them play “in Los Angeles.” The Rainbow Bar and Grill is located in the very heart of Los Angeles. The Dirt makes it seem like a suburban location.
The Dirt Ignores Mötley Crüe’s Early Years
The Dirt skips 1982 entirely in order to introduce Mötley Crüe’s second manger, McGhee. For dramatic purposes, the film uses a party sequence to directly explain the revised history to the audience. It’s an understandable decision, as McGhee not only managed Mötley Crüe during the ‘80s, but also Bon Jovi and later Kiss. In The Dirt, Costabile’s character is used to underline Mötley Crüe’s wild behavior. What viewers don’t see, however, are the various PR stunts from Mötley Crüe’s first year as a band.
The Dirt Alters Vince Neil's Story
For the most part, The Dirt’s casting choices are believable, especially with Game of Thrones' Ramsay Bolton as the “alien” Mick Mars. However, Australian actor Daniel Webber doesn’t look anything like Vince Neil, even though he effectively mimics the stage presence of Mötley Crüe’s lead singer.
In addition, The Dirt rushes through the final act, mashing together two important events in Neil’s life: his 1992 departure from the band, and the 1995 death of his four-year-old daughter, Skylar. For the purposes of the film, though, the editing does indeed heighten the drama.
Overall, The Dirt is fun, wild, and full of rock nostalgia. Most viewers will be pleasantly surprised, and the performances are mostly on point, though Colson Baker is overly campy as Tommy Lee. The Dirt is unapologetic, and depicts the realities of what Mötley Crüe experienced, along with the appropriate context for what inspired them to mature and consider the larger picture.
- The Dirt (2019) release date: Mar 22, 2019