Micropics: 18 Narrowly Focused Biopics That Need to Be Made
As proven by recent biopics like The End Of The Tour and Steve Jobs, some biopics benefit from a smaller scope (rather than trying to tell the story of someone's entire life). Below are some concentrated biographical tales that deserve their own cinematic interpretation.
- •Bob Dylan goes electric, 1965-66If ’60s music has an equivalent to Washington crossing the Delaware, it’s the moment when Bob Dylan went electric. Equal parts history and myth, it’s a watershed moment when something new and world-changing was forged.
- •Hattie McDaniel makes Gone With The Wind, 1939-40McDaniel’s willingness to work within the racist Hollywood system to land high-profile roles makes her a simultaneously inspiring and tragic figure, and a biopic about her experiences on Gone With The Wind could zoom in on the human experience of moral compromise.
- •The Smiths, 1982-87The saga of Morrissey and Marr continues to fascinate, nearly 30 years after The Smiths split amid acrimony and creative differences.
- •Madonna Ciccone becomes Madonna, 1978-83adonna’s journey from 1978 to 1983 has no shortage of intrigue: There’s the backdrop of gritty New York, her detours into nude modeling and a sojourn in France, her switch to music and time in the city’s fertile club scene, and, finally, the vindication of a record deal and a debut album.
- •Richard Hell and CBGB, 1972-77Toss in roles for other CBGB regulars like Patti Smith, Talking Heads, the Ramones, and Blondie—all of whom had connections to Hell—and you’ve got a slice of American cultural history with a huge personality at its center.
- •Stephen King’s prolific, addicted run, mid-’70s to late ’80sKing spent most of the first part of his career struggling with an addiction to alcohol and cocaine, a bad situation that could make for a terrific movie. The arc of meteoric success set against personal trauma is a familiar one, and a filmmaker could use the literal beasts King has created over the years to illustrate the figurative ones he was battling.
- •Sally Ride answers an ad, becomes an icon, 1978-83The Right Stuff got a ton of mileage out of juxtaposing the public professionalism of the original Mercury 7 astronauts with their imperfect personal lives, and a biopic about Sally Ride would make the perfect companion to that film.
- •Dave Chappelle disappears, April-June 2005The pressures that must have led up to Chappelle’s departure would make for a fascinating story, not only as an exploration into the psyche of what was at the time one of America’s most astute and gifted comedic minds, but also a compelling look at the way the country’s messy racial politics and popular culture soured his experience working on his own show.
- •Rivers Cuomo goes to Harvard, 1995Just imagine a Weezer biopic about this lonely chapter in the singer’s life. It’d be the most gloriously awkward, melancholy rock ’n’ roll movie ever—and almost certainly better than DeTour, the pilot inspired by Cuomo’s college experience that Fox didn’t pick up.
- •Tarsem Singh sneaks around to make his passion project, 2000-06A biopic focused specifically on Tarsem’s devotion to this one movie—how it plays into his family history, and all the chicanery he used to make it happen—would be an unbeatable art-about-art story. And hey, it might bring the film itself to a wider audience.
- •Fannie Lou Hamer at the 1964 Democratic National ConventionThe story has an irresistible combination of an unexpected hero thrust into political intrigue, famous black activists, powerful Democratic leaders, and a betrayal of civil rights ideals for short-sighted party politics. But at its core, it’s simple: A humble woman took on the president in the court of public opinion and, at worst, fought to a draw.
- •W.B. Yeats in the Golden Dawn, 1899-1901Secret societies! Occult rituals! Coups d’etats! Poetry! Before he was world-famous for his works, a young W.B. Yeats was a member of the Hermetic Order Of The Golden Dawn, a secret occult society in Victorian England.
- •Bob Newhart goes from company man to superstar, 1956-72A film charting Newhart’s course from office drone to top-selling comedy act to the start of his influential and successful first TV show in 1972 could be fascinating, especially as it looks into show business at the time.
- •Rodgers and Hammerstein write Oklahoma!, 1940-43This biopic would dramatize the very first project they created, Oklahoma!, which ushered in a new era of story-driven book musicals and cemented the greatest musical theater writing partnership of the 20th century.
- •David Letterman: The Hollywood years, 1975-80It’s a great story about a young man from Indiana packing up his pickup truck and driving to Los Angeles to seek his fortune in comedy, only to spend several years struggling to find his comedic voice and suffering through bad ’70s variety shows.
- •John Lennon and Harry Nilsson’s “lost weekend,” 1973-75The film would have scenes of the booze-fueled recording of Nilsson’s Pussy Cats album, the pair getting thrown out of a Smothers Brothers show for being obnoxious, and Lennon contemplating his return to Ono, but also a key moment in rock history: Lennon signing the papers that formally dissolved The Beatles.
- •Syd Barrett’s rise and fall, 1967-75One of the sadder stories of ’60s music is that of Pink Floyd co-founder Syd Barrett, whose drug consumption and mental breakdown ended his music career before the ’70s hit their halfway mark.
- •Martin Scorsese and Robbie Robertson’s long nights, 1978-80Scorsese would probably never share any footage of their late-night escapades and non-stop partying, but a linear biopic, tracing the duo’s debauchery amidst the tail end of the New Hollywood movement, would be sufficient.