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 Inside the Rock Biopic Boom

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The success of 'Bohemian Rhapsody' and 'Rocketman' has sparked a slew of new rock biopics.

By Jonathan Bernstein in Rolling Stone

Yoko Ono and John Lennon, 1970ock biopics have been a Hollywood mainstay since 1978's The Buddy Holly Story, but the genre is enjoying an unprecedented resurgence, thanks to the success of Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman. "It's a bit of a biopic arms race," says producer Nathan Ross, who's working on a John Lennon and Yoko Ono film. Here's a look at what's in the pipeline.

John & Yoko

This love story -- tackling John Lennon and Yoko Ono's relationship from 1966 to 1980 -- is set to be directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club), and is being written by Anthony McCarten (Bohemian Rhapsody). Producer Nathan Ross describes it as an "intimate portrayal. We wanted to bring the right kind of intimacy to this storytelling." Shooting is planned for the first half of 2020.

DOUBLE FANTASY Producers lobbied Ono before she eventually gave her blessing. It's the first time Yoko is allowing her story to be told," says Ross. Her support is helping them attain the couple's tricky music rights. "There are films that have authorized music, and films that don't -- and you'd rather be the former," says Ross. "There was pressure to do it right on the part of the artists and their fans."

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin

The Queen of Soul biopic, titled Respect, had been in the works long before the singer died, with Franklin herself picking Jennifer Hudson to star. "You have no idea how humbled I am," Hudson said. Directed by Liesl Tommy (Jessica Jones), it's set to debut in August 2020.

TIGHT FOCUS Respect is expected to center on the singer's late-Sixties explosion and end in the early Seventies. "[We asked ourselves], 'How does her story reflect those times?'" says Jonathan Glickman, president of MGM.

Ronnie Van Zant

Lynyrd Skynyrd

This long-awaited account of the pioneering Southern-rock band and its tragic 1977 plane crash was held up for years in court, as director Jared Cohn battled several band members' estates, which opposed the film's release (based on a "blood oath" taken after the crash). When the filmmakers finally won the case on an appeal last October, Cohn says he was "weeping tears of victory."

ASK ARTIMUS Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash is largely based on the new memoir of longtime drummer Artimus Pyle. Cohn says he also spent years poring over conflicting accounts in order to tell an accurate historical story. "I read every book every interview," he says. "It was like a thesis project." The film cost $1.5 million to create.

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley

Director Baz Luhrmann is tackling Presley's story, reportedly splitting it into two sections: one covering Presley's wild rise to fame and the other picking up in his drug-addled thirties.

CAST AWAY Austin Butler (TV's The Carrie Diaries and Arrow) has been cast to portray the King of Rock & Roll. Tom Hanks is set to play Presley's controlling manager, Colonel Tom Parker.  

 The Song Remains The Same

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There's a hot new trend among classic rock artists: never making new music.

By Andy Greene in Rolling Stone

ay you're a classic-rock artist with a deep arsenal of hits. You could play the classics at arenas around the globe, release deluxe editions of your old albums, maybe even launch a Vegas residency or produce a biopic about your life. One thing you are unlikely to do, however, is make a new album full of original songs. Chances are, it won't sell -- fans simply prefer older hits to new songs. And as the below chart shows, many of the biggest names on the road haven't bothered to put out new music in years. Take Fleetwood Mac, whose last album, 2003's Say You Will, underwhelmed. "Even if [a new Fleetwood Mac album] had great things, it isn't going to sell," Stevie Nicks told Rolling Stone in 2017. "What we do is go on the road, do a ton of shows and make lots of money. We have a lot of fun. Making a record isn't all that much fun."  

Classic rockers album chart

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