The Mötley Crüe biopic The Dirt premiered on Netflix earlier this month to a very positive reaction from fans, despite the negative reviews from critics. The biopic is a tell-all book-turned-film that shares the “dark parts” and holds nothing back, something Mötley Crüe manager Allen Kovac believes is important for today’s pop and music culture.
Kovac and Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx sat down with Pete Mitchell of Virgin Radio to discuss the book-to-film journey and the importance of finding companies that would allow them to share the “train wreck.”
“The concept of the book was to find a book company that would let us tell a lot of story,” Kovac says. “We had met Judith Regan who was a controversial publisher and she was with HarperCollins. She said, ‘What are you thinking?’ I said, ‘Have you ever had an artist sign that once they gave the interview, they couldn’t change anything?’ And she said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘What if we had four different buses and we got Neil Strauss, who we all know, to take everyone’s version and then we leave it as is, and see what a rock and roll band really is, which is a train wreck?’ She loved it. But HarperCollins was very concerned about lawsuits, so they asked if we would indemnify them, which we did. We indemnified the book company against any lawsuits. Anyway, long story short, because of that, you have a real rock story. And that’s why we called it The Dirt.”
The autobiography was released back in 2001, so when it came time to market the now best-seller, Mötley Crüe had to think outside the box.
“There was no Internet back then,” Kovac explains. “We were trying to come up with a marketing concept. I’ve always worked with Nikki and the band on… You wanna get out there, and you don’t have to do it conventionally. We were sitting around and coming up with ideas, and I threw out, ‘What if we sent books to every rock festival and asked the promoters to put the book in all the stars’ buses?’ With artists having to drive all the time, they get bored. So they all read the book. Social media back then was the tribal experience of an arena or a club or a theater, and they would tell the fans, ‘You’ve gotta get this book. I’ve never read a book that actually put this stuff in it.’ And all of a sudden, the book became a best-seller, and it just kept selling and selling until it became the biggest rock book, or music book, ever sold.”
After such a successful book launch, it came as no surprise that movie deals would soon become available. However, Kovac reveals how they weren’t about to make any major changes from book to movie.
“And at that point Tom Freston, who was CEO of MTV, part of Viacom which was Paramount, optioned the book. And then the problems started. You go to a corporation, they wanna make a different movie than the book. And after about seven years and six different heads of production, we agreed to disagree and we moved to Focus Films. And then Focus Films gave us another five years of, ‘Yes, yes, yes. We’ll do it. Oh, we’re not sure.’ And then finally, we settled on Netflix, and they’ve been great.”
Both Sixx and Kovac shared the importance of keeping the “dark downside” of rock and roll within the film, especially with the band’s sudden rise to fame.
“We formed January 17, 1981,” Sixx says. “There was a weird frenzy about this band. When you’re young, you don’t know how to control that. You’re young. You’re looking at your heroes and you’re like, we’re on the same path. We’re going downhill, our car is on fire and it seems good until you hit the brick wall.”
Kovac adds, “I don’t think you’re on the same path. The Beatles glamorized acid. You had Keith Richards glamorizing heroin. These were kids, and the success happens, but you’re also in the era of excess. People are doing blow while they’re doing disco. Everybody is excessive and all of a sudden these guys, who always wanted to differentiate themselves, decide, ‘We’re gonna be crazier than everyone else.’ The movie deglamorizes it. And I think it’s the first movie where rock stars are talking about the downside, the very dark downside. I think that’s one of the takeouts of this movie—that artists today have a responsibility to know the damage that they can do to themselves but also to their audience whether it’s hip-hop or it’s Demi Lovato ODing recently. I think that’s where this film is really important for music and pop culture.”
You can check out the full interview below.
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