Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Jimi Hendrix without Hendrix but with Andre 3k

Last week, it was revealed that a Jimi Hendrix biopic was underway, filming in Ireland with OutKast's Andre 3000 as the lead. I love Jimi's music, as any person with good taste should. I don't really care who plays him, so long as it's not Chris Tucker, Martin Lawrence...

However, I do find it stupid and weird that they're ignoring many excellent and compelling black British actors - there's a lot of them, you know: Idris Elba, Colin Salmon, Lennie James, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (whose name I can pronounce just fine, thank you Nigerian coworkers!), Chiwetel Ejiofor... Honestly, if Thandie Newton played Mr. Hendrix, it would make more sense - tho it would leave me with suddenly-confused feelings about Jimi.

Of course, three days later, we learned that Jimi Hendrix's estate is denying permission to use any of his music in the film. And this is nothing less than greedy stupidity - to the max, brah!

I don't know that any movie could ever capture Jimi's life well. Not his days as a paratrooper in the Army, not his success in the UK before being recognized in the US or his legacy or his death. Still, you expect typical studio foolishnesss to mess up a biopic: glossing over bad or controversial moments, inventing material for dramatic effect... But refusing music rights because you're not getting paid enough is just moronic.

It's also very hypocritical, because Hendrix has been all over films for the last 40+ years. The most likely rejection would've been to The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, Andrew Dice Clay's only "real" leading role. After all, that pic slags off the music industry, has lots of sexist material, and uses Jimi Hendrix's name at least 5 times. It's a guilty pleasure movie for me, but I'd've understood if the estate had withheld permission...

I don't think I have more to say about this, but here's a quick list of Jimi's soundtrack CV: Almost Famous, Wayne's World, City of Angels, A Serious Man, Election, Payback, Fire Down Below, White Men Can't Jump, Heaven's Prisoners, Under Siege, Point Break, Pyrates, True Believer, Off Limits, Less Than Zero, Better Off Dead... IMDb lists 148 entries in film and tv.

How do you get Hendrix in the He-Man movie, 1987's Masters of the Universe with Dolph Lundgren and Frank Langella, but not in his 2012 biopic? Excuse me while you kiss my muscular little ass, Hendrix Estate. Ditto whoever skipped all the American and British actors that could've excellently portrayed this towering rock icon.


  1. Out of those you mentioned (and others you didn't), I would actually have to say that I agree that Andre 3000 looks the most like Hendrix. However, of course, that's not usually the best criterion for whether he'll do a good job in the role. Still, consider me cautiously optimistic.

    Regarding the music rights issue, this is what it seems like to me: With those other movies, the Hendrix estate had no leverage because the filmmakers could have just chosen a different song to serve the function in the movie that Jimi's song would serve. Might as well get some money as opposed to none. In this case, there's a much better likelihood that the producers will cave and meet their asking price. However, in this game of chicken, we the viewers could be the ones who lose.

    1. Thanks, Vance! I agree that the audience is the certain loser, here - it's why it irks me so. I don't honestly think that movies can really do justice to real-life figures, or the difficulties they faced. Ghandi, The Iron Lady... maybe only My Left Foot does a real job of showing adversity and achievement, fairly...

      I hadn't honestly thought about it, but Andre 3k does resemble the great Jimi. AV Club, a site I love, notes they might've gotten him so he could simply cover Jimi's songs, which wouldn't require studio permission. I can't really rag on Andre, as I haven't seen his acting; still Idris, Adewale, Colin, and Lennie are all personal favorites! Non-white actors get screwed over a lot in cinema (why did Carl Lewis, Keith David, and Ernie Hudson not get more work?!), and I'd love to see what a strong actor could bring to the experience. It's the same way I feel when I see American actresses on the cover of so many fashion mags - My thought is always, "that's supposed to be for models, you pandering jerks!"


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