The challenges of making a musical biopic today

It's not unusual for things from the underground (whatever that is anymore) to percolate up to the mainstream without their creators getting the mainstream recognition they deserve: Brakhage and Derek Jarman become music videos, XTC becomes Franz Ferdinand and so on. But what happens if you keep the cycle insular?

Right now, we're awash in musical biopics about bands and musicians whose fame, in their day, was hardly overhwhelming. "The Runaways" focuses on a band whose first two albums actually peaked at #194 and #172 on the Billboard charts. The best-selling album of 1979 was Billy Joel's "52nd Street," but you may hold your breath in vain for a Joel biopic. Joy Division's "Closer" didn't even come close that year, which is presumably why we've been treated to two fictional depictions of Ian Curtis in the last decade (supporting player in "24 Hour Party People," lead player in "Control").

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