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'60s rock films in the works

Biopics about Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin are several projects in the making

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All you ’60s purists who got wigged-out at the idea of a Woodstock theme park, brace yourselves: Classic rock is about to get the Hollywood treatment. Barreling down the pipeline are a magic busload of movies about the lives of counterculture-era rock idols. Among the psychedelic tales to come:

· Seems Tom Cruise really does like that old-time rock & roll. The Risky Business air guitarist is developing a biopic of legendary producer Phil Spector, the eccentric genius behind the Ronettes and the Righteous Brothers, among others. Cruise, who’d star as well as produce for Universal, has talked to both his Jerry Maguire director, Cameron Crowe, and the reclusive Spector about the project.

· Yet another Maguire grad — catchphrase king Cuba Gooding Jr. — is negotiating to star in Blaze of Glory, the story of soul man Otis Redding. Scripted by Joe Eszterhas (Showgirls), the film has no studio yet but could begin shooting as early as the fall, says producer Ben Myron. Expect a heartwarming tale of Redding’s friendship with his white manager, Phil Walden. ”It’s as much about black and white…as it is about his musical legacy,” says Eszterhas.

· The saga of Jimi Hendrix, who died in 1970, a year after his ”Star Spangled Banner” rocked Woodstock, is being developed by the Hughes Brothers (Dead Presidents). They’ve met with the Hendrix family, who nixed their hopes for an authorized project. ”We’re not ready to get involved in a movie right now, but there will be one down the road,” says Janie Hendrix Wright, sister of the legendary guitarist and president of Experience Hendrix, which ”would have to have complete control” of any family-blessed movie. Though Laurence Fishburne once was interested in playing Jimi, the family’s film would ”star a complete unknown.”

· And get ready for a double dose of Janis Joplin: The gravel-voiced rock priestess is the subject of dueling biopics. Paramount’s unauthorized effort may feature the appropriately gravel-voiced rocker Melissa Etheridge. Meanwhile, TriStar’s version, which has the cooperation of the Joplin estate, will possibly star a lip-synching Lili Taylor. ”It’s the story of a woman who broke the rules,” says Peter Newman, producer of the TriStar film. ”She was a white woman who sang the blues and who slept with people of both sexes. She was the first true rock queen.” Already the inter-project sniping has begun. The TriStar movie ”will be a whitewash,” says a source close to the Paramount flick. ”There’s a lot the family doesn’t want told.” Says Newman, who plans a fall shoot, ”There’s no way we’re treating this with kid gloves.”

Why the ’60s flashback? Industryites say the rock sagas are part of a growing fascination with contemporary history (e.g., The People vs. Larry Flynt). ”Hollywood is absolutely ravenous for stories from real life,” says producer Michael Cieply, who is working on a biopic of country outlaw Merle Haggard. ”When you talk about music stars of the ’60s, you’re talking some amazing stories.”