A somnolent sight, the music biopic has whored itself around Hollywood for the past few years honking on with misty-eyed nostalgia whilst clearly on a promise with the purse strings. Yes, it’s a bankable affair, embarking on a film with an existing fan base, but it hasn’t always provided modern sparks. Joan Jett promised but didn’t deliver in the Runaways, a lacklustre Lennon dozed through Nowhere Boy and Biggie bored in Notorious. The subject matter does allow for fleeting glows in the dark though; personal favourites include the beautifully photographed Control and the barbed realism of I’m Not There, but the problem seems to be that the talkies’ charisma and tone never quite hits the original protagonist’s personality.

Wafting on the horizon though, are bios with promise; films with subjects and stars to match. Amy Adams is currently soaking up spoils for bagging the role of Lois Lane in the Zack Snyder/Christopher Nolan Superman: Man of Steel but before that she impressed in The Fighter, showing grit and a lightness of touch that will serve her well as Janis Joplin.

With no director on board as yet the project, titled Janis Joplin: Get it While You Can, imagines just one day in the life of the artist – an intriguing premise, and she sung at the Oscars too, so that’s half the battle won, right? Amazingly Adams is 36, a benign maturity that Joplin walked and talked for years.

Elsewhere is Peter Morgan’s next project. It seem that when he was asked to write The Queen he must have said, “Go on then, stick Helen Mirren in it, but only if I can write about the REAL Queen next,” because he’s on board to screenplay the untitled Freddie Mercury project. Adding a dose of pragmatism to a tale of English eccentricity, Morgan also penned Frost/Nixon and The Last King of Scotland, so expect serious drama with your cross-dressing, a very good thing when you consider the life and times of Mercury. Big heels to step into though and Sacha Baron Cohen looks to be the man to do so. After the brazen Borat and Bruno it’ll be fantastic to see the comedian’s take on a national treasure. We know he’s got the moustache, but has he got the acting chops? Roles in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo Cabret and Larry Charles’ The Dictator (as Saddam Hussein no less) should warm him up nicely.

And finally, just take a glance down Al Pacino’s films of the last ten years; it’s a depressing sight, it really is. From Righteous Kill, to 88 Minutes, to Gigli; the man’s lost the plot, which makes him the perfect choice to play Phil Spector. Both 70 years old with small man syndrome, this looks to be a match made in heaven (if Spector used to walk round the studio making loud nasal noises at The Ronnettes Pacino could be looking at an Oscar nod). HBO films are reportedly involved with Barry Levinson and David Mamet at the helm, so it’ll be interesting to see how they portray the murder of Lana Clarkson, although it will be more interesting to see Pacino sporting hair like Spector’s.

By Ian Roebuck

Originally published in issue 27 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. April 2011