Director reveals singer’s refusal to let him use his music left ‘space in my heart’ he tried to fill with Steve Jobs biopic
Boyle has spent years working on a film focusing on the “Thin White Duke” and the script had been written by Frank Cottrell Boyce, who worked with Boyle on the opening ceremony for the London Olympics.
However, speaking to the Radio Times, the Oscar-winning director confirmed that the pair had been forced to pull the plug because Bowie refused to give them permission to include his songs.
Boyle, who directed Slumdog Millionaire, said that Bowie’s refusal to be associated with the project had left him “in grief” and that while he was “very keen to direct a musical”, the project was not a musical in the traditional sense.
He told the magazine that he had taken on his most recent film, Steve Jobs – a biopic of the late Apple chief executive – to “fill the space in my heart left by the abandoned Bowie script”.
In another recent interview in October, Boyle said of the Bowie film: “It’s a wonderful script, by Frank Cottrell Boyce. It’s a sort of musical, but we couldn’t get the music rights ... So, we had to put it away for the moment.”
Boyle said he did not want to do what projects such as Velvet Goldmine, a 1998 Todd Haynes film based around a glam rock musician, did. Bowie did not approve of the film, which has since become a cult classic, and its many similarities with his life story. He refused to let his music be used and threatened to sue, resulting in substantial rewrites to create more distance between the character and the real man.
While the future of the project hangs on Bowie’s approval, Boyle told the Happy Sad Confused podcast that he hoped he would one day be able to revive it.
“I’d love to do this film,” he said. “It’s not really a musical, but it is, so we’ll see.”
This is not the first time Boyle has attempted to involve Bowie in his work. The film-maker failed to get the star to appear in the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics, while Bowie’s seminal album Low inspired Boyle’s 2013 thriller Trance.
Boyle also told the Radio Times that Kate Winslet, who plays Jobs’s right-hand woman Joanna Hoffman, would be a great behind the camera as well as in front of it.
“She’s an amazing person to have on set,” said Boyle. “She talks to the crew about everything. I don’t know why she doesn’t make films.”
In an interview in June this year, Winslet said her experience working with Boyle on Steve Jobs had made her consider directing for the first time.
She said: “I did become aware of just how much experience I’ve had, particularly as a film actor and how much knowledge I have about the behind-the-camera stuff as well. Also, I was married to a director for a long time, too, and I certainly learned things from Sam [Mendes], so we’ll see.”
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