October 1, 2009 / 6:08 AM / 9 years ago

Ramones biopic draws studio interest

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Fox Searchlight wants to be sedated.

Drummer Marky Ramone from the band Ramones gestures at the 15th annual Race to Erase MS gala in Century City, California May 2, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

The specialty division is in negotiations to board a project about the life of the Ramones, based on the upcoming memoir “I Slept With Joey Ramone,” by the musician’s brother, and featuring the band’s tunes.

The project, which initially had been conceived independently under manager-producer Rory Rosegarten, would get a significant boost with the involvement of the 20th Century Fox unit.

Written by Joey Ramone’s brother Mickey Leigh and longtime punk writer and Ramones chronicler Legs McNeil, it centers on the life of Joey Ramone, aka Jeffrey Hyman, the lead singer of the seminal punk act. The memoir is scheduled to be published by Simon & Schuster imprint Fireside in December.

Rosegarten is a former executive producer of “Everybody Loves Raymond” who negotiated several years ago to buy the rights to the book as it was being written and, most critical, the rights to the music. The studio negotiation process has been a complicated one because of the multiple rights involved. The deal with Fox Searchlight is not closed, caution people close to the situation.

The four unrelated musicians John Cummings, Jeffrey Hyman, Thomas Erdelyi and Douglas Colvin formed the Ramones in Forest Hills, New York, in 1974. Going by the names Johnny, Joey, Tommy and Dee Dee Ramone, they became cult symbols and fathers of punk music, attaining little commercial airplay but heavily influencing modern music with songs like “I Wanna Be Sedated,” “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Rockaway Beach” and “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend,” and giving rise to the countercultural catchphrase “Gabba Gabba Hey.” Other members — including Marky, C.J. and Richie Ramone — also played with the band at various points.


While the act’s music was more freewheeling than political, the Ramones were both contemporaries of and influences for other 1970s and 1980s punk bands such as the Clash and the Sex Pistols, while acts including U2 have cited them as key influences on their music.

Many of the band members struggled with addiction and assorted health problems, and Joey Ramone overcame obsessive-compulsive disorder and other obstacles. (Of the four principal members, only Tommy Ramone is still living.) The band was torn apart by in-fighting, particularly between lead singer Joey and guitarist Johnny, who went years without speaking to each other because of personal and political differences.

The Ramones split up in 1996, though they did subsequently appear several times in public together.

The Ramones have been on the big screen before. In the 1979 teen-rebel comedy “Rock ‘n Roll High School,” the band starred as musical mavericks who help teens face off with a disciplinarian principal. Howard Stern last year signed on to produce a remake of the movie. A well-received documentary, “End of the Century,” came out in 2004.

But there has never been a feature tale centering on the band’s musical influence and backstage drama.

As with other influential bands, a Ramones biopic would face hurdles en route to the screen. A take on the life of Nirvana and frontman Kurt Cobain has been in the works for years.

The difficulties of getting a Ramones movie made were referred to during the third season of “Entourage,” when a Ramones script was pounced on by the show’s fictional movie star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier), who subsequently lost the project.

Editing by SheriLinden at Reuters

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