David Bowie's son says Stardust biopic doesn't have music rights or family's blessing
As casting continues for Stardust, an upcoming biopic about the late David Bowie, the project hit a publicity snag.
Filmmaker Duncan Jones, Bowie’s son, spoke out about the movie and claimed the producers didn’t have the rights to his father’s library of music nor did they have the family’s blessing.
“Pretty certain nobody has been granted music rights for ANY biopic… I would know,” Jones tweeted on Thursday. “[I’m] not saying this movie is not happening. I honestly wouldn’t know. [I’m] saying that as it stands, this movie won’t have any of [dad’s] music in it, & I can’t imagine that changing. If you want to see a biopic without his music or the families blessing, thats up to the audience.”
In a statement provided to EW, the producers of Stardust from Salon Pictures in the U.K. said, “We would like to clarify that this film is not a biopic, it is a moment in time film at a turning point in David’s life, and is not reliant on Bowie’s music. Our original press release did state this. Much like Nowhere Boy for [John] Lennon, Control for Joy Division, the production uses period music and songs that Bowie covered, but not his original tracks. The film was written as an ‘origins story’ about the beginning of David’s journey as he invented his Ziggy Stardust character, and focuses on the character study of the artist, as opposed to a hits driven ‘music’ biopic.”
“We’re not using any Bowie music,” producer Paul Van Carter further clarified over the phone to EW. “We always knew that we weren’t going to.”
“We wouldn’t lie about something like that,” he added, pointing to the original press release that stated such. Instead, they’re using “using music from the period.”
As far as the family’s blessing, Van Carter explained the producers “approached representatives of the [Bowie] estate before we started [developing] the idea of this movie.”
“We offered to send the screenplay and make the estate involved in the creative process,” he said, adding, “We were told there wouldn’t be approval from the estate… the estate doesn’t [typically] license Bowie’s music.”
Through a spokesperson, the Bowie estate declined to comment at this time.
“It’s not a big-budget musical biopic like Bohemian Rhapsody,” Van Carter noted. “This isn’t trying to be that film.” The producer described Stardust as “a very sensitive one, an homage one, about a very unique moment in his life.”
Bowie died three years ago on Jan. 10, 2016 at the age of 69 after a battle with cancer.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Johnny Flynn (National Geographic’s Genius, Netflix’s Lovesick) will play Bowie in Stardust, directed by Gabriel Range (Death of a President, I Am a Slave). Jena Malone (Vice) will play Bowie’s wife Angie and Marc Maron (Netflix’s GLOW) will play Bowie’s record publicist, per Variety.
Stardust follows the rise of Bowie, beginning with the 1971 trip to America that helped inspired the musician’s alter ego, Ziggy Stardust.
Jones later added on Twitter, “If [American Gods and Sandman writer Neil Gaiman] wanted to write something using dad’s characters, and [Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse co-director Peter Ramsey] and his team wanted to make it as an animated film, I would urge everyone on my end to pay attention and give the pitch serious consideration.”
This article has been updated with comments from the producers of Stardust.