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Stardust: Johnny Flynn would rather appear in unauthorised Bowie film than ‘bland and safe’ music biopics

Actor said that biopics can become ‘homogenised [and] slightly suppressed’ with the involvement of the artist’s estate

Isobel Lewis
Saturday 16 January 2021 11:51 GMT
Stardust trailer

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Johnny Flynn has defended controversial David Bowie biopic Stardust in comparison to other “bland and safe” music films.

The film, set during Bowie’s younger years, was released in the UK on Friday (15 January). It has been near universally panned by critics and fans for going ahead without Bowie’s music or, as his son Duncan Jones put it in 2019, “the family’s blessing”.

Stardust has naturally been compared to authorised recent biopics such as Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody, but appearing on Sky News’ Backstage podcast, its star Flynn said that Jones’s comments weren’t an explicit condemnation that the film shouldn’t exist.

"I think you could argue that this story told with the complicit cooperation of an estate would mean that it becomes a homogenised, slightly suppressed version of the story,” Flynn said.

“And with all due respect to the Bowie estate and family, we just wanted to be able to tell the story that we wanted to tell.”

The actor continued: “All too often, we’ve seen with musician biopics and other biopics recently that eventually things just become, I think, a bit bland and safe because of the estate trying to protect the legacy of the subject.”

In an interview for The Independent, Flynn said that he was “not into” films like Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody, which respectively involved Elton John and the remaining members of Queen in their production process.

The Lovesick star walked away from the role of drummer Roger Taylor in the Freddie Mercury biopic, explaining: “I saw the estate and the band starting to kind of change the scripts and doctor things, and I pulled out a bit at that point because it changed so much. And I thought, ‘That’s not fair on people.’”

The Independent’s Clarisse Loughrey called Stardust “a flimsy, unrecognisable portrait of Bowie” in her two-star review of the film.

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