by Curtis Lanclos
Pam & Tommy is an American biopic miniseries on Hulu which chronicles the marriage between Baywatch actress Pamela Anderson and Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee. Specific attention is paid to the period their unauthorized sex tape was leaked to the public. The 2019 Netflix Mötley Crüe biopic The Dirt completely ignored the Anderson-era of Lee’s life, so this mini-series is obviously capitalizing on that.
In this new offering, Lily James and Sebastian Stan play the title roles. Great care was given to make James amazingly resemble Anderson; and while Sebastian Stan channels a pretty convincing Tommy Lee with some poetic license, I still see a hint of Marvel’s The Winter Soldier (aka “Bucky”) in thong underwear (ugh) whenever I look at him. In my humble opinion, Machine Gun Kelly, who portrayed Tommy Lee in The Dirt, did a slightly better job in the role of the rock drummer. I’m sure Pam & Tommy will continue to be entertaining nonetheless as more episodes are dropped weekly on Hulu until March 9, 2022.
All of this caused me to consider my wish-list for rock band biopics. Three bands which definitely deserve the dramatic rockumentary treatment are…
- Van Halen
- Pink Floyd
The reason these groups are on my wish-list is because I believe there are three perfect actors who either could have portrayed a key member of each band at one point, or perhaps still can. Two of these rock stars are deceased and one is not.
WARRANT – Brendan Fraser as Jani Lane
Warrant is an American glam metal band formed in 1984 in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California by drummer Max Asher. When Asher and the original lead vocalist Adam Shore left the band in September 1986 to form the band Hot Wheelz, one night guitarist Erik Turner happened to be watching a performance by Plain Jane, a popular band on the Los Angeles club circuit. Impressed by the band’s songwriting and vocal performance, he invited lead singer Jani Lane and drummer Steven Sweet to jam with his remaining bandmates. Lane and Sweet, along with guitarist Joey Allen joined Warrant and thus produced the classic lineup of the band in 1987. In addition to providing lead vocals, the singer quickly assumed the role of songwriter.
Warrant’s peak years of success were 1988 – 1993. After years of ups and downs and time in and out of the band, Jani Lane was found dead of acute alcohol poisoning at a Comfort Inn hotel in Woodland Hills, California at the age of 47 on August 11, 2011.
For years I have thought a potential biopic about the life and times of Warrant and Jani Lane should have been made with Brendan Fraser cast in the lead role. In 1994, Fraser portrayed Chester “Chazz Darby” Ogilvie, the lead guitarist and lead vocalist of a band named Lone Rangers in the comedy movie Airheads. In the film, Chazz and his bandmates Rex (Steve Buscemi) and Pip (Adam Sandler) stage a hijacking of a radio station in order to get their demo recording played on the air. Fraser as Chazz looked almost exactly like Jani Lane.
Fraser probably would have been better suited for such a role back in 1994 than he is now (since he is currently 53 years old); but the problem is that the tragedy of Jani Lane’s life wouldn’t have been fully told back in 1994 since he passed away several years after that time.
VAN HALEN – Shane West as Edward Van Halen
Van Halen was an American rock band formed in Pasadena, California in 1973. The band originally was named Mammoth; however, lead singer David Lee Roth felt that changing the name to Van Halen held long-term identity, artistic and marketing advantages (and he was most certainly right). It also helped to highlight the driving force of the music in the band; the late, great Edward Van Halen. Back on RetroZest Podcast Episode #25, we celebrated Eddie’s life and career just after his passing in October 2020.
I don’t recall the name of it, but there was a “documentary” made about Van Halen a few years ago which included the use of actors to tell an arguably inaccurate history of events in the band’s history. The actors in that offering looked nothing at all like the rock stars whom they were portraying. Additionally, actor Christian Gehring played David Lee Roth in the aforementioned Mötley Crüe biopic The Dirt; and I must say, although he did a good job channeling Roth, he’s a bit more handsome than Diamond Dave has ever been.
The first time I saw actor Shane West was when he co-starred with Mandy Moore in A Walk to Remember in 2002. At the time, he was 24 years old and I felt he was a bit of a dead ringer for Eddie Van Halen (if he were to wear a wig or grow his hair out). Now, West is 42 and coincidentally looks like older Eddie (especially if you were to add some grey to his beard)…
Perhaps the best time to have cast West in a role as Eddie would have been back in 2002, but makeup and CGI could be employed to make him look younger (he’s pretty young-looking anyway). Plus, as was the case with Jani Lane, the full story of the Ed’s life and times as the GOAT guitar virtuoso could only include his passing away in 2020 if it were told now.
PINK FLOYD – Adam Driver as Roger Waters
Pink Floyd were an English rock band formed in London in 1964. After founding member Syd Barrett left the band in 1967, the band embarked on a journey in the 1970s wherein they absolutely dominated the world of rock music. This included the lineup of Rick Wright on keyboards/vocals, Nick Mason on drums, David Gilmour on guitar/vocals, and finally Roger Waters on bass guitar/vocals.
As was the case with David Lee Roth and Edward Van Halen in Van Halen, Waters and Gilmour represented a yin and yang within Pink Floyd which generated conflict, yet in the end produced some great music. This is why, when Waters left the band in 1985, the Gilmour-led incarnation of Pink Floyd, (although still quite good) was lacking in the lyrical and creative direction which Waters added. For this reason, the story of the Floyd would make a fascinating biopic.
From the moment I saw Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, I couldn’t help but notice how much the actor who portrayed Kylo Ren, Adam Driver, resembles a young Roger Waters. It simply astounds me that someone in the TV or movie industry hasn’t decided to lobby for the creation of a Pink Floyd biopic for this reason alone. Driver is currently 38 years old, but he still looks very young. Someone PLEASE do this!
Incidentally, although Edward Van Halen and Roger Waters were members of my #3 and #2 (respectively) favorite bands of all time, their styles of music are completely different. For that reason, I would have never expected them to collaborate on any project together. However, did you know that they did?!
In the spring of 1999, Waters released of a song on the soundtrack to La Leggenda del Pianista Sull’Oceano, an Italian film from director Giuseppe Tornatore. The soundtrack was eventually released in the United States under the title “The Legend of 1900” in October 1999. The song is named “Lost Boys Calling,” and was composed by Ennio Morricone, who composed, arranged and conducted the entire score. Lyrics were written by Waters, who also provides the vocals; however the guitar solos on the song are courtesy of Eddie Van Halen. The track was produced by Patrick Leonard, who worked with Waters on 1987’s Radio K.A.O.S. and on Pink Floyd’s A Momentary Lapse of Reason that same year.
Anyway, I digress.