Battle of the Fans: Is the Jimi Hendrix Biopic a Good Idea?
After decades of speculation, a Jimi Hendrix biopic will be released in 2013. The main filming for All is By My Side is almost done, with the movie team hoping for it to debut at Utah’s Sundance film festival in January 2013. But is a Jimi biopic a good idea? The proof, of course, will be in All is By My Side’s final cut, but here some pros and cons to consider.
“Yes, It’s a Great Idea!”
Jimi Deserves a Movie. As one of the greatest music artists ever, Jimi deserves the big screen treatment. His meteoric rise and demise was full of drama in a hugely fertile period for rock. It’s definitely a story worth telling.
The Casting. Jimi will be played by André Benjamin, best known as André 3000 of Outkast. Benjamin can certainly act – previous movies include Families, The Shield, and Revolver. Plus, Benjamin has a passing resemblance to Jimi already, and leaked photos show that his movie likeness to Hendrix in All is By My Side is about as good as you could possibly wish for. Producer Sean McKittrick said in July, "Andre has been Jimi for four months now. He speaks and walks like Jimi. The transformation has been amazing.” Benjamin’s multi-instrumental skills as a musician will also surely help him “feel” the role and plausibly mime Jimi’s otherworldly guitar playing. At 37, but lean and trim, André ticks all the boxes.
Reintroducing Jimi. Every guitarist knows about Jimi, of course. But a younger generation may – at best – only know that he’s “just” another dead ‘60s rock star. All is By My Side could convert untold movie-goers to the richness of Jimi’s music, which is never a bad thing.
“No, It’s a Bad Idea!”
It’s a Part Story. All is By My Side only deals with Jimi’s rise. It portrays Hendrix’s life in London in 1966-’67, but goes no further. These were exciting times for Jimi, with incredible musical output, but All is By My Side takes a swerve on the album that Hendrix himself thought his most complete vision – Electric Ladyland.
Producer Sean McKittrick convincingly defends the truncated story: "That would be like making a movie about Kurt Cobain," McKittrick told Rolling Stone. "We all know how that story ends."
There Is No Hendrix Music in All is By My Side. Woah!Experience Hendrix LLC, which oversees the Hendrix estate and is run by Hendrix's sister Janie, has said that it “has made it known many times in the past that no such film, were it to include original music or copyrights created by Jimi Hendrix, can be undertaken without its full participation.” So there will be no Jimi original songs in All is By My Side. How will the movie makers do it? By including only songs that Jimi covered. That could include songs by The Beatles, Muddy Waters, Elmore James and Curtis Knight. The filmmakers may have permission for “Hey Joe,” credited to Billy Roberts. Even so, that’s got to be a struggle for a full portrayal of Jimi’s ’66-‘67 soundtrack.
The recorded remakes of Jimi covers have been cut in Los Angeles by session stars including guitarist Waddy Wachtel (Keith Richards, Stevie Nicks, Linda Ronstadt), bassist Leland Sklar (James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Phil Collins), and drummer Kenny Aronoff (John Mellencamp, Meat Loaf, Smashing Pumpkins). Impressive line-up. And music Danny Bramson, who oversaw the music, won a Grammy for his work on the Almost Famous soundtrack.
No-one Close To Jimi Appears to Be Involved. Mitch Mitchell (drums), Noel Redding (bass) and Chas Chandler (the manager who brought Jimi to England) are now deceased. So are many others outside the studio that Jimi was friends with. Legendary engineer Eddie Kramer knew Jimi closely, but appears not to be involved. Is it simply too many years on for this movie to be an accurate portrayal of Jimi Hendrix?
What do you think? Will you head straight to the movie theater? Or will All is By My Side go straight to DVD? Either way, you’ll probably watch it. Or will you?