Jimi Hendrix's estate has finally decided to go along with a biopic, which is bad news for John Ridley's Jimi: All Is By My Side, but good news for those of us who want a Hendrix biopic with actual Hendrix songs. Deadline reported Tuesday night that Experience Hendrix LLC has signed with ICM agency in a deal that will promote the brand, starting with an approved biopic. So while All Is By My Side is free to use "All Along the Watchtower" and Hendrix's rendition of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," this latest version will feature "Purple Haze," "The Wind Cries Mary" and all the other Hendrix songs your grungy friends listen to on the classic rock radio station.
As Shadow and Act points out, the timing of this deal is kind of awkward. All Is By My Side just showed at SXSW, and John Ridley is riding high after winning the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for 12 Years a Slave. Plus the estate, run by Hendrix's sister Janie, released this statement:
"We’re delighted to be associated with ICM Partners on this project that’s been a long time coming,” Janie Hendrix, sister of the late musician, said. “Our concern has always been that any biography of Jimi that employs his music be held to the very highest standard of cinematic excellence. His musical legacy deserves no less. Our partners at ICM are ideal insofar as they completely understand that the use of his music in such a film is a monumental responsibility that will resonate through generations to come as Jimi’s artistry has since the 1960s.”
Emphasis added, biting criticism already there. One thing everyone can agree on is this has been a long time coming. Over the years, several unapproved Hendrix biopics have been rumored, only to fade away. Ridley's project — set in Hendrix's pre-fame-cover-song-performing stage — was lucky to even get made.
November 2005. According to Fox News, we were this close to Lee Daniels' The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Daniels would have directed and produced and Lenny Kravitz — who released "American Woman" in 2000 — would have starred.
April 2006. Quentin Tarantino was rumored to be working on a biopic with Hendrix's brother Leon and full music rights.
May 2006. Just kidding. Tarantino said "there's not even an iota of truth" to the rumors of his Hendrix project.
December 2010. Legendary Pictures pitches a biopic dream team to the estate: Anthony Mackie as Jimi, director Paul Greengrass (who would go on to direct Captain Phillips) and Thomas Tull of Legendary, who'd financed the It Might Get Loud rock documentary. They presented the package to the estate, but the estate said no. ”Legendary proceeded without our permission, direction or involvement," Janie said in a statement. "It didn’t ‘fall apart,’ it never was." Previously, Will Smith and Eddie Murphy were considered for this project.
May 2011. Jason Derulo reveals that he had to turn down a role in a Hendrix biopic to focus on his own music. "I've turned down a lot of movies and commercials and one of them was for an autobiography of Jimi Hendrix playing the main man," Derulo said, according to Digital Spy. "That would have been really cool but I can't do it because I'm trying to balance my album and tour." He didn't say who approached him, we're just glad it didn't happen.
July 2011. The Hendrix estate puts to bed any rumors that Andre 3000 is going to star in a biopic, but we might get some documentary footage. “With Sony Legacy, our partner, we are active in releasing documentary material starring, so to speak, Jimi Hendrix as himself and plan to continue on this path," Janie said.
May 2012. Just kidding. Andre 3000 will be in the movie and filming is starting in 3 weeks, according to The Huffington Post at the time.
September 2013. All Is By My Side debuts at Toronto. The Hollywood Reporter liked it: "Intimate take on a slice of Hendrix's life is more convincing than many full-blown biopics."
March 2014. As All Is By My Side's theatrical debut nears, producer Danny Branson has hinted to Rolling Stone that getting the rights to iconic songs doesn't always have to be difficult. Paul McCartney was really nice about letting them use "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band":
"I had the great fortune of working with Paul [to secure] two instrumentals in Jerry Maguire and convincing him during the editing of Vanilla Sky to [compose a new song]," Bramson said. "I had said we wanted to re-create [Hendrix's] Saville show and without sending a page, within 72 hours it was approved."
June 2014. All Is By My Side will debut in the U.S., and possibly be overshadowed by speculation over who will star in the estate-approved biopic.