Rotten – real name John Lydon – launched a lawsuit last year in a failed bid to prevent director Danny Boyle use the punk icons’ music. The resulting fallout meant that, while surviving band members Steve Jones, Paul Cook and Glen Matlock contributed to the production, Lydon remained absent.
“There’s that age-old punk saying that if you were really there, you can’t remember it,” Boon told the BBC of the Pistols’ notoriously difficult past. “And they all remember certain things differently because it was so important to them.”
Speaking about the challenge of recreating Lydon’s “rancid brilliance” without help from the man himself, the actor added: “That would have been the icing on the cake.” Instead, he relied on archive performance film, photos and interviews. “I’m fascinated by the physical transformation he went through,” he said.
“In one of the earliest videos of the Sex Pistols, I noticed his shoulders were much more hunched. Then around Grundy [the TV chat show scandal], the shoulders dropped a bit, and by the time they played in America, his chest was almost puffed. It’s like his body changed as his star rose, so I just sort of documented it.”
The people who played the Pistols were sent back to school for three months to learn how to perform, an experience Boon said had been invaluable but painful. “In the morning we’d all have individual tuition for music, so I’d be down the corridor screaming my head off and drowning out everyone else’s music lessons. After break time we’d come together as a band and we’d play for a few hours. And then after lunch, we would do scene practice with Danny.” He added: “”I had to have physiotherapy on my jaw all the time, because of the pressure that would build up in my face.”
He recalled performing “Holidays in the Sun” for fashion icon Jordan (Pamela Rooke), who has since passed away. “Her advice for me was, ‘You need to pigeon-toe your feet more.’ She said she was always at the front of gigs and she always remembered Johnny’s toes pointing in like that.”
‘Pistol’: Cast And Characters
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