Is Hollywood Ready For James Bond As Townes Van Zandt?
Coinciding with the late Kurt Cobain's 43rd birthday last week came news on the ongoing development of a supposed Hollywood biopic. Ideas for Cobain flick started being bandied about almost before the lid was sealed shut on the Nirvana frontman's urn after his April 1994 suicide. But that's the way the entertainment industry is, rushing to the scene of the crime to attempt to capitalize in whatever way, shape or form it can. Luckily, both Johnny Cash and Ray Charles were alive and kicking just long enough to help pick the men who would play them in their own repective life stories. Texas is awash in near-mythic musicians ripe for portrayal on the big screen, with some having sadly short life spans. We have already seen a handful of films go through the theaters with varying results. Gary Busey knocked Buddy Holly out of the park in 1978's The Buddy Holly Story, and Jennifer Lopez quickly became a household name and ass-tastic pinup after donning the sequined bustier for 1997's Selena. George Strait's country-schlock masterpiece Pure Country wasn't quite a biopic so much as a morality tale and an excuse for King George to wear a mullet wig and grow a beard. A Janis Joplin film has been kicked around for almost three decades to no avail; the last we heard, studio execs were aiming for She & Him's Zooey Deschanel to play Joplin. Our state has a knack for helping create some of the most intriguing, innovative and dangerous people to ever strum a guitar or pick up a microphone. You could say it's in the air, the water or maybe our beloved tacos, but Texas musicians from Scott Joplin and Bob Wills to prodigal sons like Britt Daniel and Gibby Haynes all share that common thread. Plenty of other Texas artists, both living and dead, deserve the five-star Hollywood treatment. Rocks Off picked out a few, and even went to the trouble of casting them so the producers won't have to.Lightnin' Hopkins Texas' preeminent blues icon still mystifies and helps define the blues of this state 28 years after his death. Most of the places he haunted in his heyday are grown-over and changed, but that's nothing a few million dollars of Hollywood cash and tax money couldn't fix. Throw the star of Hotel Rwanda, Don Cheadle, the role as the younger Hopkins and age him with make-up to play the bluesman wailing away with the Thirteenth Floor Elevators. Plus, T-Bone Burnett on soundtrack duty wouldn't hurt matters in the slightest. Our Pick: Don Cheadle Hollywood's Pick: Morgan Freeman Roky Erickson Speaking of the Elevators, a Roky Erickson biopic would be an epic of drugs and mental illness and a challenge for any actor. It would be harrowing to see his wilderness years in institutional lock-up dramatized for the big screen. For our money Valient Himself of Valient Thorr would be the perfect fit as Erickson in his wooly prime. They both speak the same and Himself sports the same beard that Erickson has had for most of his life. Plus if you have seen Thorr live you will agree that Himself can pull off deranged and feral. Our Pick: Valient Himself Hollywood's Pick: Leonardo DiCaprio Beyonce Knowles Knowing Lady B, she would demand to play herself in this biopic tracking her rise from her Destiny's Child youth to becoming the white Lady Gaga. Sure there is not much to speak of other than starring in a string of scantily-clad videos, snagging Grammys, getting snubbed for an Oscar for Dreamgirls, and being betrothed to Hova, but it would be a sure-fire blockbuster, if only in Houston. We're thinking more along the lines of a fancier and grittier Glitter. Our Pick: Beyonce Knowles Hollywood's Pick: Duh. ZZ Top This movie would be ridiculously hilarious and filthy and more on the lines of a 40-year long director's cut of The Hangover. There are so many moment in Frank, Dusty, and Billy's history that we would want to see. Running the streets of Houston as faux-mods with the Moving Sidewalks in the '60s, Dusty and Billy both showing up after a hiatus having grown beards, or even behind the scenes at the Eliminator videos. Something tells us the Top would have given even Motley Crue a run for their money in their prime. Owen and Luke Wilson with Zach Galifinakis would be amazing as the trio boozing their way through the past four decades under kingly beards. Our Pick: Zach Galifinakis, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson Hollywood Pick: A bunch of Twilight kids... Stevie Ray Vaughan Are you kidding us? This would be like the biggest father-son bonding movie of all time. Raise your hand if you grew up hearing "Crossfire" on Saturday mornings while your father cursed at the family car while changing the oil. A Stevie Ray Vaughn biopic is overdue, and with the 20th anniversary of his death coming up this summer, a long enough time has passed for his memory to be firmly ensconced in Texas blues lore. Let's hand the role to Mark Wahlberg and see what he can do with that Mexican poncho and a Stratocaster. Our Pick: Mark Wahlberg Hollywood's Pick: Guy Pearce Billy Joe Shaver An unsung country legend if there ever was one, Billy Joe Shaver is a walking grizzled historical landmark. In his 70 years of life he has seen death, despair and happiness coupled with brushing elbows with most every country star that Nashville could throw the world's way. Cast the co-star of No Country For Old Men, Josh Brolin, as a young Shaver, the one who partied with Willie Nelson and David Allan Coe in the '70s. Leave older Shaver to play himself so we can get a sweet cameo at the end from his bassist and local boy Nick Gaitan. Our Pick: Josh Brolin Hollywood's Pick: Russell Crowe Townes Van Zandt Please, Lord, get the Coen Brothers to direct this thing. There are plenty of stories in Townes' life to keep everyone enthralled for over two hours. The early life spent as a rich kid from an oil family, the shock therapy used unsuccessfully to kick his addictions in college, the transient living, the Jester Lounge shows here in Houston and his prolific songwriting would all be perfect for material. Such a massive character would also need someone with the same steely and stoic personality; We'd pick current 007 Daniel Craig because he has that same look and frame. Now he just needs to learn to sing. In the meantime, be sure to Netflix the excellent documentary, Be Here To Love Me. Our Pick: Daniel Craig Hollywood's Pick: If he was alive, Heath Ledger would have killed this one. Willie Nelson Pop culture knows plenty about our elder statesmen Willie Nelson, but we don't know nearly enough about the Red Headed Stranger's early years. The story for most people starts when that album hit in 1975, and not back in the late '50s and early '60s when Willie was writing songs like "Family Bible" and "Night Life" (some of which he wrote while working as a Houston DJ). Grime up pretty-boy British actor James McAvoy with some baby stubble and enlist a cavalcade of modern Americana acts to play some of the musicians. The scene where Willie's wife wraps him in a bedsheet and sets it on fire has Best Supporting Actress written all over it. Our Pick: James McAvoy Hollywood's Pick: Jake Gyllenhaal Doug Sahm For a Doug Sahm, you would need to reach back to his youth and portray him as the whiz kid he was at just all of 11 years old. Sahm was asked to be in the Grand Ole Opry as an instrumentalist and even had the pleasure of playing with Hank Williams Sr. before he hit puberty. Imagine seeing him as a teenager meeting Roy Head and Freddy Fender for the first time during that sock hop in San Marcos in the late '50s. A few minutes alone chronicling the recording of "She's About A Mover" would sate us for a few days. Follow the man up through the Texas Tornados, and you've got a motion picture. Our Pick: Jared Harris Hollywood's Pick: Ewan McGregor Geto Boys Let's just make this one partially-animated to fully and adequately do justice to the world of the Geto Boys. Not like some bullshit Avatar thing, but more like Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly or Waking Life. No actors or rappers today could fill the shoes today of Scarface, Willie D and especially Bushwick Bill. We would also settle for a simple documentary, since it's not like there is a shortage of tall tales surrounding them. Our Pick: Richard Linklater Animated Flick Hollywood's Pick: A movie that would make Notorious look like Ray...
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.