A film about Whitney Houston starring Naomi Ackie called I Wanna Dance with Somebody. The production was written by Anthony McCarten, who also wrote the script for the biopic about the Queen singer, and directed by Kasi Lemmons, who made Harriet. The film will also be released in the US in the run-up to Oscar season in December. And the good news is that the rights to the Houston legacy have also been acquired by the producer, so the original music could be used. It has to be said that in recent years we’ve been getting a succession of serious biopics about great musicians… whether the next one will be I Wanna Dance with Somebody remains to be seen, but in the meantime here are some of the best of the 2000s.
Although 8 Mile (2002) can’t be called a definite biopic, it was certainly an interesting first entry in the genre and we can’t pass it by. Perhaps it’s not too surprising that Hollywood producers saw potential in Eminem’s life and were quick to exploit it. But no one expected the rapper to find himself on the silver screen so quickly, where he would find his footing, and Eminem would steal the show from the likes of the bloody professional Kim Basinger and the late Britany Murphy!
Walk the Line (2005) centres on Johnny Cash and his country singer lover June Carter. Joaqin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon sing the well-known songs themselves, and both shine as the two legendary musicians. Witherspoon won an Oscar for her performance, Phoenix “only” a nomination, and had to wait until The Joker to get a statuette.
Edith Piaf’s name probably needs little introduction. But few people know the personal drama behind the French chanson queen’s glamour. Her parents were alcoholics and she was raised by her grandmother, who ran a brothel. Later, her father took her in. She sang and begged on the streets, and it was Louis Leplée, the director of a Parisian variety show, who noticed the fragile creature, gave her the name Piaf, meaning ‘sparrow’, and opened the way to the world stage. In just a few years, the whole world was at Piaf’s feet, until then penniless. Piaf (2007) won two Oscars, one for star Marion Cotillard in a distorted, unforgettable masked portrayal of the French legend.
We don’t usually expect a biopic to be experimental, as the genre has a rather delicate relationship with reality, and an even more delicate relationship with the celebrity’s fan base. In the case of a portrait film, therefore, there is rarely an opening for creative creativity and innovation. Well, I’m Not There – The Life of Bob Dylan (2007) is a notable exception. Todd Haynes brings the American legend’s face to life with the help of six different actors – sorry, one of them actress Cate Blanchett – none of whom happens to be called Bob Dylan.
N.W.A. (N***** Wit Attitude), which was launched in the late eighties, is as inescapable in the hip-hop genre as, for example, Elvis Presley’s work is in rock and roll. It was only a matter of time before their story would make it to the big screen, but few expected that Straight Outta Compton (2015), a movie about the cult band, would eventually transcend the average music career drama. It’s a niche, fast-paced film that not only provides perfect entertainment, but also makes you think and gives an authentic portrait of early nineties America.
Taron Egerton stars in this grandiose, insanely glamorous, grand-scale biopic of Elton John. Rocketman (2019) follows the story of Reginald Kenneth Dwight, or Elton John as he is now known to everyone, as he goes from complete obscurity to becoming one of the greatest singer-songwriters of his generation. Thrown aside by his father and neglected by his mother, Elton John embarks on a journey from the Royal Academy of Music to global stardom. But it was by no means a smooth road… The seventies raged on, and a lot of alcohol and even more drugs crossed the singer’s path, who also had to deal with anger management issues and acceptance of his sexuality. Rocketman is a perfect example of how one goes from self-destruction to self-love.