Once upon a time, it seemed all an actor had to do to generate awards buzz was land a showy part in a lavish costume drama. (Extra points for sideburns or a corset.) But thanks to Ray and Walk the Line, which scored Oscars for Jamie Foxx and Reese Witherspoon, Hollywood is suddenly hot on a new kind of Academy bait: musician biopics.
”They’re [the new] epic period pieces,” says Picturehouse president Bob Berney, who’s already planning an awards campaign for Marc Anthony’s portrayal of salsa legend Hector Lavoe in next summer’s El Cantante. (Jennifer Lopez, Anthony’s wife, produced and costars.) ”Musicians’ lifestyles are dramatic — there’s always the up-and-down tragedy.” Mr. and Mrs. J. Lo aren’t the only ones clued in to the cinematic power of sex, drugs, and rock & roll. Zooey Deschanel is set to channel Janis Joplin in Penelope Spheeris’ The Gospel According to Janis. An indie Joey Ramone pic is in the works. And in 2007, Terrence Howard will reteam with his Hustle & Flow director Craig Brewer to play black country-music pioneer Charley Pride. Howard will sing all tunes himself — which, says the film’s producer Stephanie Allain, makes for a ”livelier, more immediate performance. It stretches the actor and the public’s appreciation for acting.” (Read: Look over here, Academy!)
Of course, not all of the dozens of musical biopics in development have ”for your consideration” aspirations. Some, like the Mötley Crüe flick The Dirt, seem designed as good, not-so-clean fun. Which is a shame, really. Cause we’re dying to hear the Academy orchestra’s rendition of ”Girls, Girls, Girls.”