40 years ago last Saturday, one of the greatest rock ‘n’ rollers of all time both celebrated his country and took a stand against its imposed societal restrictions, its self-proclaimed savior status in the Vietnam war, and the consumptive materialism that was running rampant through our country at the time. His interpretation of The Star Spangled banner was a non-partisan call-to-arms for all those who were looking for a new meaning in life - off the normed path of order, into disorder. Unfortunately, Hendrix never saw the values he espoused come to fruition; along with several other greats (Morrison, Joplin, Cobain), Hendrix died at the age of 27 in 1970.
Now, almost 40 years later, Variety reports that Legendary Pictures is trying to mount a bucking bronco that many before have already been thrown from. Once again, mainstream media is trying to capture the story of Jimi Hndrix on celluloid and plaster it all over the big screen for all to experience (pun intended). Many before have tried and failed to get this film made, thanks to the Cerberus of Experience Hendrix, the rocker’s immortal estate (a.k.a. stepsister Janie Hendrix), who continues to play Duck Hunt with all offers.
Legendary has a newly contrived approach it feels may just woo Janie enough for her to let down her guard. Legendary’s head, Thomas Tull, and Bill Gerber have bankrolled the dough to get this project rolling, and Max Borenstein, who also wrote "What Is Life Worth?," has the words. Tull recently put together another music movie, It Might Get Loud, introducing legends like Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, U2’s the Edge, and then throwing in Jack White for the tween demographic - a clever but cheap move, IMHO, and perhaps an indicator of his plans for this Jimi Hendrix film.
But apparently Legendary thinks that the Tull/Gerber/Borenstein combination of corporate movers and shakers will unlock the rights issues that have halted so many previous Hendrix projects. And that’s not all. In true Hendrix fashion, Legendary is taking the road less travelled. Rather than pitching the idea to Experience Hendrix first, Legendary is going to put together and develop the project as much as possible before they approach the estate and try to win its concessions. Sneaky, huh?
But let’s address the real issue here: who could do Hendrix justice, even remotely? Lenny Kravitz has been considered in the past, but if you ask me, he’s too into himself to ever break character. Andre (3000) Benjamin was thrown in the mix once before, but I’m not sure he’s had enough experience on screen to tackle an epic role of this nature. So who’s it gonna be? And what will be the qualifying criteria? Does the actor need to have musical talent? Should they be able to sing? How similar in appearance do they need to be to Jimi? Who are our strongest options? Don Cheadle, Terrance Howard, Denzel Washington, Will Smith - the list (of aging actors) goes on. Will the star be chosen for their box office appeal, or for the talent? Let’s hope the latter rather than the former.
So here we are, 40 years after Hendrix snubbed his nose at what his country had become, and we’re trying to turn him into a box office draw, with the potential for a sequel and (naturally) the merchandising to follow. Can’t you picture it: a bunch of 13-year-olds headed to school with t-shirts blazoned with Purple Haze lyrics, wearing and iconic afros and bandanas? Is this what Jimi would have wanted?