It's only a couple of weeks since we were last extolling our love of seminal punk band The Clash, so we'll spare you the full shtick: in short, they're certainly the greatest of the punk bands, and possibly the single greatest band in the history of rock and roll. It seems that filmmakers have just cottoned on to that fact -- a few weeks back it was announced that Paul Viragh, writer of the terrible Ian Dury biopic "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll," was penning "Joe Public," about the band's frontman Joe Strummer. Now, word has emerged of a rival project, which threatens to see the other one consigned to history.
Screen Daily and Variety both report that writer Jez Butterworth will write a currently untitled feature about the band for Ruby Films ("Tamara Drewe"), and will co-produce along with the company's head honchos Alison Owen and Paul Trijbits, with shooting planned to get underway next year.
Butterworth has a slightly dicey history in the features world, penning the Nicole Kidman comedy-drama "Birthday Girl," and this year's Doug Liman drama "Fair Game" (the latter with brother John-Henry Butterworth), but he's best known as a playwright, and as one of the best of his generation -- his plays include "Mojo" (adapted as a film in 1997), "The Night Heron," "The Winterling" and "Parlour Song."
However, it was last year's "Jerusalem" that brought him renewed attention -- when it opened at the Royal Court in London last year, it was acclaimed as an instant classic, and rightfully so -- it's one of the greatest evenings at the theater that this writer's ever spent. It's coming to Broadway next spring, and we'd urge any New York readers to see it then. He was also writing the biopic of war photographer Robert Capa for Michael Mann, which seems to have fallen apart, as well as a draft of the James Brown biopic that Spike Lee was working on.
Butterworth's presence immediately elevates the film above its rival, even if Butterworth hasn't quite had the success on the screen that he has on the stage as yet. But the real killer blow is that band members Mick Jones and Paul Simonon are serving as executive producers and advisors on the film, and have granted exclusive rights to use the music, which would seem to relegate "Joe Public" to Jackie Jormp-Jomp territory.
The plot seems appropriately focused, as it'll center on the recording of seminal album "London Calling," and the relationship between the band and producer Guy Stevens, who had a major influence on the record, before dying of a drug overdose in 1981. While the signs are good so far, we're not sure that there's any burning need for a movie about the band, especially considering that the number of band biopics that turned out to be any good can be counted on the fingers of no fingers. There aren't any, is what we're saying.
Having said that, maybe this'll be the one that turns it around -- Butterworth's more than talented enough to pull it off. There doesn't seem to be a director attached at present, but with the writer having directed both "Mojo" and "Birthday Girl" it's not inconceivable to think that he may want to make his return to direction here. More news will follow in the coming months, we're sure.