John Lydon:
LA Times, June 29th 2003

Transcribed by Dino Everett & Jack

© 2003 LA Times


By Steve Hochman; Special to The Times

Who would you want to see in the role of Johnny Rotten in a movie about his life? Justin Timberlake? That's the suggestion of Mr. Rotten himself.

He's joking, of course. But John Lydon, who has been unsatisfied with portrayals of him in such films as "Sid and Nancy," is giving the matter serious thought these days. He has teamed with Penelope Spheeris, director of the "Decline of Western Civilization" punk and metal documentaries as well as "Wayne's World" and other features, to develop a movie based on the Sex Pistols singer's 1994 memoir, "Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs." "Penelope Spheeris is someone I love and adore, and I think we're going to make a wonderful film," Lydon says, noting that a few other people had attempted to write scripts for the film but had not met his exacting standards. "Writers tend to misunderstand or over-elaborate or exaggerate," he says. "It's my life. Just tell it as it is."

The focus of the book is on his lower-class London roots and the dismal situations that forged the no-compromise stance he's taken throughout his career. "People don't understand that it means you have no hope, no future -- you're told that from the day you're born," he says. "It's still there, that repressive idiocy. People like me come from that. We don't back down.

"I don't want to make a VH1 rockumentary-type film where you can generically drop in Billy Idol or the Partridge Family and it comes out the same way," he says. "It will be considered an unusual film by many, I suppose. But ... conventional doesn't work for me." Lydon does not think finding a worthy actor will be hard.

"I've got to say there's a lot of young people out there that have the right attitude," he says. "They don't have to be bloody well-known actors." The teaming with Spheeris comes at a busy time for Lydon. He's about to take the Sex Pistols on the road for their first tour since the 1996 "Filthy Lucre" reunion trek, starting in Boston on Aug. 20, with dates scheduled for Sept. 6 at L.A.'s Greek Theatre and Sept. 7 at San Diego's Street Scene festival.

For this tour, the band is stripping it down to the basics: no backdrop, no big lighting rig, just "hard and simple," he says. He's particularly excited that in isolated shows such as their appearance last September at the Inland Invasion show in Glen Helen, the crowds have been diverse.

"The variety makes it worthwhile," he says. "Nothing more awful than seeing one huge army of mohawks -- such a disgusting cliché and so against anything I've stood up for. If you want a uniform, there are real armies out there you can join."

He's also working on material for a solo album, his second since breaking up Public Image Ltd. in the mid-'90s. Among the tracks are recent collaborations with Australian producer Nick Launay, who worked on PiL's 1981 album "The Flowers of Romance." He's got eight songs done, although he has not approached labels about releasing it yet. "It's serious hard dance," he says. "I use the word 'dance' very flippantly. It's just solid. Not rock."


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