From smash hits to stone circles, Julian Cope's life to be filmed

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The Independent Culture

He's the cult rock icon who swapped LSD-dosed appearances on Top of the Pops to become a leading authority on Neolithic stone monuments.

Now the curious story of Julian Cope, former Smash Hits cover star, practising druid and great British eccentric, is set to be turned into a feature film. David Morrissey, the award-winning actor, has secured the film rights to Head On, Cope's autobiography. The book charts Cope's rise to stardom as frontman with post-punk band The Teardrop Explodes and their collapse amid egomania, debauchery and a surfeit of psychedelic drugs.

From Jim Morrison to Ian Curtis, the rock biopic genre usually tells the story of an intense young star whose life has been cut tragically short. But Cope's is the tale of a performer who in 1984 appeared naked on the cover of his album Fried, with only a giant turtle shell to cover him, and has wilfully parted company with the mainstream ever since.

A loyal audience has followed Cope through occasional solo hits like "World Shut Your Mouth", to his recent ear-splitting, drone-metal trio, Brain Donor. A student of pagan ritual, Cope's most surprising career shift has been his emergence as an acclaimed expert on Britain's prehistoric stone circles; his book, The Modern Antiquarian, sold 40,000 copies, was adapted as a BBC documentary and prompted an invitation to lecture at the British Museum.

And Bloomsbury published his 2007 book Japrocksampler, the definitive history of the impact of post-War democracy in Japan on the country's underground music scene between 1951 and 1969.

Morrissey, the star of State Of Play, said: "I secured the screen option to Julian's Head On. I think there's a really good story to be told."

The Liverpudlian actor has a deep interest in the late-70s musical scene that spawned The Teardrop Explodes and a host of other similarly influential bands.

Morrissey, who made his directing debut last year with Don't Worry About Me, is seeking production partners for the film. Rhys Ifans is a possible casting for Cope. Morrissey could appear as Bill Drummond, the bands' idiosyncratic manager, who went on to top the charts with pranksters, the KLF.

In Head On Cope describes how he "took huge hits of LSD" before a live Top of the Pops appearance and in his tripping state, proposed forming an "acid-soaked dance group" with Eurovision winners Buck's Fizz.

Now 52 and a self-styled "cosmic shaman", Cope has mellowed and lives happily with his wife and children in Avebury, Wiltshire, releasing music through his own Head Heritage website.

A spokesman for Cope said the singer was currently writing a novel in Sardinia and could not be reached for comment. But the spokesman said Cope was pleased that Morrissey had secured the rights to Head On and was awaiting further developments.

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