Mark Wahlberg's Precious Metal
Everything seemed perfectly normal at the special heavy metal concert held at the L.A. Sports Arena in the spring of 2000 as some 10,000 loudmouthed longhairs banged their heads to the likes of Megadeth, W.A.S.P., and Great White.
In other words, it was total mayhem.
”People were carried out on stretchers because they were so drunk,” remembers Jennifer Aniston, who was in the audience. ”And one girl’s boob exploded. Bam! Bye-bye! She was one of those girls who people were looking at and saying, ‘Wow, look at the rack on that girl, I wonder if it’s real.’ Well, there’s your answer.”
Backstage was a sick scene of another kind. As he prepared to film a performance by opening act Steel Dragon, the all-too-sober director Stephen Herek was having difficulties. ”He was petrified,” says Aniston, adding that at the sight of the unruly crowd ”he went white and started hurling.”
It would be just one of the queasy moments Herek experienced during the making of Rock Star, a leather-and-studs rags-to-riches fantasy with the amplifiers blown. Inspired by the true story of Judas Priest lead singer Tim ”Ripper” Owens, the movie stars Mark Wahlberg as Chris Cole, a Pittsburgh working stiff who fronts Blood Pollution, a local band devoted to covering the tunes of Steel Dragon, a fictional ’80s heavy metal group. When Steel Dragon’s own singer is fired, Chris is tapped to take over. Aniston costars as Emily, Chris’ manager and girlfriend, along for the always rowdy and sometimes rocky ride.
Rock Star‘s own rocky ride began in 1997, when producer Robert Lawrence optioned a New York Times article by Andrew Revkin about Owens, an Ohio office-equipment salesman plucked from obscurity to become Judas Priest’s lead singer after Rob Halford quit in 1993. Actor-turned-screenwriter/director John Stockwell set to work developing the film at Warner Bros., which tried to secure rights to the life stories of Judas Priest members, only to hit financial and creative impasses. ”I think both ends [Judas Priest and Warner Bros.] couldn’t get connected,” says the 34-year-old Owens. ”If someone is going to portray you, you want it to be pretty close…and [the studio] really didn’t want us to be involved with anything from the sound of it.” While Owens says he has no problems with the idea of the movie, he adds, ”It was strange that the studio bought the rights to a story about me, [but] I didn’t get a dime, and then I was thrown out of the loop.”
”Judas Priest was approached to be a part of the filmmaking process,” says a spokesperson for Warner Bros. Pictures. ”The band ultimately declined due to creative differences, as the film is fictional and not the Judas Priest story.”
Once the studio made the decision to fictionalize Owens’ experience, Stockwell hit the road with hirsute metallurgists Pantera to do research. By last February, the distancing had begun. ”It’s, uh, it’s not really based on the Ripper Owens story,” Wahlberg said then, adding with a smile, ”well, I’m supposed to try. Owens is from Ohio. We’re in Pittsburgh. It’s completely different.”