Picture: RICK STEVENS
Zellweger is expected to sing some of Joplin's hits.
Director finds road to Joplin pic full of curves
November 29, 2005
LOS ANGELES – When it comes to Janis Joplin films, perhaps Hollywood just needs to take a cue from one of her hits and try (just a little bit harder).
From Lili Taylor to Melissa Etheridge to Brittany Murphy to Renée Zellweger to Courtney Love, the past decade has seen a long string of actresses attached to a series of ultimately unproduced Joplin biopics.
The legion of interested directors has included Nancy Savoca (True Love), Gary Fleder (Kiss the Girls) and Stephen Gyllenhaal (Homegrown).
Penelope Spheeris has been on the job longer than most. The Wayne's World director has been developing Gospel According to Janis for many years, but on the eve of the release of her latest feature, The Kid & I, Ms. Spheeris is confident that her flick about the Texas-raised blues-rocker is finally ready to come together.
"The most recent draft will be done in the middle of December and we're halfway through it now," she says. "They say we're gonna shoot in spring, but we'll see. It's been a long time coming for me – 15 years."
Thanks to her series of The Decline of Western Civilization rockumentaries, Ms. Spheeris has her musical credentials in place, and she has Alecia "Pink" Moore as her star. Still, Joplin, who died of a heroin overdose at 27, has proved a difficult icon to properly capture.
"It's a combination of getting the right script, getting the right actor, getting the rights cleared for her life, getting the music rights cleared. It's a complex formula," Ms. Spheeris explains.
Zellweger? Wishy-Washy? Never!
by Karina Longworth
September 13, 2005
This is the best news I've heard in a while: Renee Zellweger [sic] is hemming and hawing over taking the role of Janis Joplin in the upcoming biopic, Piece of My Heart.
Zellweger claims she hasn't signed on to the role, and won't unless it "feels right". "There is a need to be careful with the movie," Zellweger said, "to make sure it does not become a cliche. Because that would be blasphemy. We have to make sure that the people who knew her are not disappointed."
Well, I can't say I "knew" Janis Joplin, but I would sure as hell be disappointed to see Zellweger take this part. For one thing, by the time the project makes it through pre-production, lil' Renee will be a good ten years older than Joplin was when she died (at age 27 of a heroin overdose). And I think it goes without saying that Zellweger, who has proven little more than that she's willing to gain weight for a role, will have to do a little more than that to pull this one off. For one thing, the barely-there vocal style she employed in Chicago would be totally insufficient here. I say they go with a relative unknown – any ideas?
Zellweger delays Joplin role
October 23 2004
Renee Zellweger, star of Bridget Jones' Diary, is delaying plans to play rock icon Janis Joplin, because she has yet to be impressed by any of the scripts offered to her.
IMDB claims that Zellweger said, "We talked about that a couple of years ago, developing a script and seeing if it is good enough.
"She is an exceptional woman and it needs to be an exceptional script to tell her story in a responsible way, to have her story told the way it needs to be told. And that takes time. If I am ultimately the person to do it, then great.
"We are in the stage of developing it and pulling it together. For now, I've got no start date and I am not getting in a make-up chair any time soon."
Joplin will apparently be played by Pink in a rival project about the 60s star.
Renée to play rock legend Janis Joplin
August 31, 2004
Long before she died on October 4, 1970 at the age of 27, Janis Joplin had been recognised as the original wild child of rock. If her astonishing voice -- part wail, part foghorn, all magic -- didn't draw gasps, her behaviour offstage certainly did.
Now, 34 years later, a documentary describing life on the road with the singer is set for release.
A few months before her death, Joplin travelled from Toronto to Calgary on a train, with icons like the Grateful Dead, Sha-Na-Na and The Band for company. She was the only female star on board what came to be called the 'Festival Express.'
Sixty hours of material shot over five days has been edited and cleaned, supplemented with commentary from surviving band members and journalists, and made ready for a first-time audience.
The fact that Joplin is still a huge figure on the musical landscape decades after her death proves she has become the stuff of legend.
A recent report in The Guardian newspaper discusses how rock would not be the same without her. If Janis hadn't arrived, chances are we wouldn't have had Patti Smith, Björk, Sinéad O'Connor or Courtney Love. She was the one who broke the stereotypes, opening the door to women in rock, holding her own in an industry ruled by men.
Janis Joplin grew up in Texas in the 1950s. She modelled herself on the great blues singer Bessie Smith who, incidentally, had a reputation for living fast and had died at 43. After performing in clubs, Joplin left for San Francisco and won a record contract after well-received performances with her first band, Big Brother and the Holding Company.
Success arrived. Albums followed, as did live performances that won over audiences everywhere. But Joplin was always restless. That she felt compelled to play a role both on and off stage was made obvious in interviews she gave. 'It's not easy living up to Janis Joplin, you know,' she once said.
The world has not forgotten Joplin.
Apart from the documentary, directed by award-winning British filmmaker Bob Smeaton, a biopic on the singer titled Piece of my Heart is due to start filming soon, with actress Renée Zellweger taking on the singer's role.
Interest in her life and her music continues to be intense. Which is justifiable. 'They may not realise it,' Smeaton told The Guardian, 'but all of the women performing today were given a doorway into rock 'n' roll by what Janis Joplin achieved.'
"ONSTAGE, I make love to 25,000 people, and then I go home alone," said queen of
the blues, Janis Joplin.
Page Six - Liz Smith
June 1, 2004
JOPLIN'S SHORT, frantic life and fabulous career is going to be examined on the big screen, starring either Pink or Renée Zellweger. Or both. Listen, if Alexander the Great can have two biopics in the works, why not this icon of sex, drugs, and rock and roll? (Despite her above complaint, Janis didn't miss much in the bedroom, though the distortions of fame and her own insecurities often left the earthy, hard-drinking singer dissatisfied with her partners.)
Both Pink and Renée are prepping to step into Janis' bell-bottoms, feathers, beads and bracelets, and practicing her famous raw wail.
Now the ladies have a bit more Janis they can study. A long-lost concert film, "Festival Express," has been found. Shot in 1970, this shows Janis, the Grateful Dead, The Band and Buddy Guy performing and traveling through Canada. The movie will be released to theaters in the fall (exclusive showings this summer), but producers have kindly sent Renée and Pink their own copies.
Janis' death in 1970 at age 27 was one of music's great losses, right up there with Judy Garland, Billie Holiday and Patsy Cline. Especially tragic in that Janis was at a creative peak when she overdosed on heroin. (Her biggest hit, "Me and Bobby McGee" was released posthumously.) Capturing her unique blend of raunch, soul and little-girl-lost vulnerability will be no easy task for the untested rocker Pink or even the Oscar-winning Renée.
As to further research, the dueling wannabes should look at "The Rose," Bette Midler's Oscar-nominated take on a Joplin-esque singer. Not only does this stand as Bette's peak as a dramatic actress, but also as one of the best screen performances by a female ever.
Meredith Scripting Zellweger's Janis Joplin Biopic
Variety, November 4, 2003
Anne Meredith has been set to script Piece of My Heart, Lakeshore/Paramount's Janis Joplin biopic, in which Renee Zellweger plans to star next year. Zellweger is producing with Tom Rosenberg and Gary Lucchesi.
Meredith wrote the script for Bastard Out of Carolina and followed that with the Holocaust film Out of the Ashes. She also wrote Delmore Can't Dance, a Paramount film Scott Rudin is producing and Robert Benton will direct. That script won her the Joplin job.
Paramount and Lakeshore have competition in getting the first Joplin biopic into theaters. Producer Peter Newman is also developing The Gospel According to Janis, which Wayne's World director Penelope Spheeris is writing and plans to direct.
Actress Renee Zellweger has signed on to play Janis Joplin in a long-awaited
the gravel-throated singing legend who died of a drug overdose in 1970 at the age of 27.
June 24 2003
Piece of My Heart is slated to start filming immediately after Zellweger wraps work on her current movie, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Daily Variety reported.
Zellweger will also act as a producer on the picture, with the actress in charge of selecting a shooting script, writer and director for the project, the report said.
Although there is no official word on the matter, Zellweger is expected to sing such Joplin classics as Me and Bobby McGee, Piece of My Heart, Ball and Chain and Mercedes Benz.
Renée Zellweger agrees to star as rock priestess Janis Joplin
By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
21 June 2003
There are few challenges for an actor more testing than portraying a popular
music legend who died in their prime, although several have proved equal to the
task. Val Kilmer was an uncanny Jim Morrison in The Doors and Gary Oldman a
credible Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy.
Now Renee Zellweger is to take the test after agreeing to star as Janis Joplin, the fallen angel of 1960s rock music, who died of a drug overdose 33 years ago at the age of 27.
Zellweger does have a few advantages. A Texan, like Joplin, Zellweger is said to have been "obsessed with Janis for years", according to the film's prospective producer Tom Rosenberg. She has also developed a reputation for her ability to transform her waif-like natural appearance to suit her roles - notably the neurotic, overweight, ultra-English Bridget Jones.
Zellweger never thought of herself as a singer until she was put through her paces for the recent Oscar-winning film Chicago, a part that won her acclaim including an Academy nomination as best actress. Her interpretation of Roxie Hart, the murderous aspiring nightclub starlet, was nevertheless very far from the beads, kaftans, drugs and audio feedback of the 1960s rock scene in San Francisco.
The part must pose an enormous challenge. Joplin was considerably larger even than Bridget Jones, had a fascinating face that was very from conventional notions of beauty, and possessed a unique blues-soul voice that ranged from a screeching wail to the most sensuous of low whispers.
Although the film does not have a finished script or a director, it has been put into high gear by Paramount Pictures and is expected to start shooting early next year. Its title, taken from one of Joplin's songs, is Piece Of My Heart.
Among other legendary female singers to have been portrayed on the cinema screen are Tina Turner, played by Angela Bassett in What's Love Got to Do with It?
The Joplin project was brought to Paramount by Mr. Rosenberg's company Lakeshore, which has been trying to get it off the ground for seven years. Other actresses considered for the lead role included Melissa Etheridge, the rock singer, and Brittany Murphy, an actress most recently seen in the Eminem movie 8 Mile. Among other difficulties, the production has had to struggle for the rights to Joplin's songs.
Paramount's chief, Sherry Lansing, said yesterday: "Janis Joplin's life is a story that needs to be told, and there is no one better to portray her than Renee Zellweger."
(note: this information is proprietary to the news sources indicated. reneesfansite.com neither confirms nor denies its authenticity)