By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com February 10, 2012 at 9:02AM
Ah, The Smiths. Who among us, at least those born after 1965 or so, can say they didn't have moments of adolescent angst, confusion and heartbreak soundtracked by the acerbic lyrics of Morrissey and the chiming guitar lines of Johnny Marr? And yet, their influence on film has never quite matched up to their cult appeal. Oh, sure, they've been recurring soundtrack favorites as far back as "Pretty In Pink," and were a key plot point in recent rom-com hit "(500) Days Of Summer," but have so far managed to avoid biopics or films revolving around them (like the upcoming Stone Roses-themed "Spike Island," which we reported on yesterday).
Well, gladioli-holders, we've got good news, as Screen Daily report that production will get underway later in the year on "Shoplifters of the World," a new based-in fact comedy focusing on a curious coda to the band's history, and the film's attracted a cast full of fast-rising stars so far. Marking the return to features of documentarian Stephen Kijak, who was behind the excellent "Scott Walker: 30 Century Man" and "Stones In Exile," it's based on the true story of an American Smiths fan who, devastated by the band's 1987 break up, forced a heavy metal radio DJ to play nothing but Smiths songs for hours, with the film focusing both on the hostage-taker and his four best friends. That's right, it's an indie-rock version of early Adam Sandler vehicle "Airheads"!
But the youthful cast that's coming together is certainly promising. So far signed on are "Downton Abbey" star Jessica Brown-Findlay, James Frecheville who was surly lead J in Australian gangster picture "Animal Kingdom," Thomas Brodie Sangster the little boy from "Love Actually" now grown up, Jeremy Allen White who plays Lip Gallagher on Showtime's "Shameless", "Son of Rambow" lead Will Poulter most recently seen in "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader," Zosia Mamet who's featured in "Mad Men" and "The Kids Are All Right" (and is daughter of writer-director David Mamet), and Skylar Astin, who broke out on Broadway in "Spring Awakening." We're not intimately familiar with every single name here, but we're firmly impressed by those we do know, so it's off to a strong start.
Likely to be more divisive is the news that an offer has also gone out to Russell Brand, to play the DJ in the film. The British comic has his share of haters, but he's shown the capacity for range in "Get Him To The Greek," and has a big test coming up in Diablo Cody's directorial debut, so we're not too upset. It may not come to pass, but given his professed adoration of Morrissey, there's every sign he'll want to get involved.
The producers, who include Lorianne Hall ("SoulBoy") have secured rights for as many as twenty Smiths songs, and filming is set to start in June, should financing come together. It's all looking very promising at this point, and we look forward to hearing more in the future.