The Guarantee of the Biopic

Whether it be Gandhi, Ray, Capote, King George VI, Lincoln, Hawking, Churchill or, most recently, Mercury, the past twenty years or so have taught us that the Academy loves a biopic. Most recently, a music biopic.

Notorious (2009). Photo Credit: This or That

With the likes of Ray Charles, Edith Piaf, James Brown, Tina Turner and Johnny Cash receiving immortalisation through film, Hollywood has proven time and time again that they love a biopic, particularly one about a struggling musician fighting against all odds to reach global success and their subsequent struggle there-in.

With Bohemian Rhapsody’s Rami Malek taking home Oscar gold for his turn as Queen front man Freddie Mercury, studios have been jumping on the bandwagon to be the next film-makers to immortalise a famous musician. With the Elton John biopic, Rocketman, set to hit cinemas in May 2019 and the Motley Crue biopic, The Dirt, heading to Netflix in March, a pattern seems to be emerging, and will undoubtedly gain traction, after Queen’s multiple Oscar wins.

Bohemian Rhapsody. Photo Credit: Alamy

It has become an almost sure-thing, taking a quirky, larger-than-life musician and tracking their success through the medium of a feature film. People are fascinated by these people’s lives, hardships and diva moments, meaning Hollywood has endless source material for the coming decades. Surely, we can expect an entire catalogue of musical superstars, including Prince, David Bowie, Elvis, Cher, The Beatles, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, ABBA, Rolling Stones, U2, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Cyndi Lauper, Billy Joel etc. to join the biopic list in the coming years. Even looking further down the track, in twenty years or so we could see Britney Spears, Beyoncé and Coldplay having their lives laid out on the big screen.

With the simultaneous return of the movie musical, as has been discussed here before, music and film make an excellent match and audience reaction is gaining traction. I am sure we can expect Purple Rain, Respect, Piano Man and Jail House Rock, just to name a few, to light up our screens and take us on a nostalgia-filled ride through music history – and into the coming Oscars. For now, we can look forward to one of the world’s biggest divas making his way to the big screen in a few months, with sparkly over-sized glasses, sequin jumpsuits and feathers in tow.

Rocketman. Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

Audiences love a Cinderella-story and film studios are painfully aware of this. Combine that with big personalities, arena spectaculars and some of the most famous songs in music history, success is inevitable. Audiences and film-makers also love a flawed public figure, as it gives people someone to empathise with, while also making them feel better about their own behaviour. We look at these people as if they are not human. We can appreciate their immense talent, but also appreciate how far removed we are from all the drama of show business. This is why biopics are becoming so popular, as it gives us an insight into the (mostly) real lifestyles of these public figures, but from the comfort of our “normal” lives.

Who would you like to see immortalised on the big screen? Let us know in the comments below.