Rock Star (2001 film)
|Directed by||Stephen Herek|
|Produced by||Robert Lawrence|
|Written by||John Stockwell|
|Music by||Trevor Rabin|
|Edited by||Trudy Ship|
Bel Air Entertainment
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$19.3 million|
Rock Star is a 2001 American musical comedy-drama film directed by Stephen Herek from a script by John Stockwell and starring Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston. It tells the story of Chris "Izzy" Cole, a tribute band singer who ascended to the position of lead vocalist of his favorite band, which was inspired by the real-life story of Tim "Ripper" Owens, singer in a Judas Priest tribute band who was chosen to replace singer Rob Halford when he left the band. After opting the filming rights to the story, Warner Bros. hired Stockwell to write the script. Brad Pitt was initially signed to play the lead role but left due to creative differences, and Wahlberg was eventually hired for the part. Rock Star garnered mixed reviews from critics and was a box office flop, grossing $19 million worldwide against a production budget of $57 million.
This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (February 2021)
In the mid-1980s, Pittsburgh resident Chris Cole (Mark Wahlberg) is a fanatical admirer of a heavy metal band called Steel Dragon. By day, Chris is a photocopier technician and by night, he is the lead singer of a Steel Dragon tribute band called Blood Pollution (the name is taken from a Steel Dragon song).
Internal struggles among the actual Steel Dragon band members culminate with the firing of their lead singer, Bobby Beers (Jason Flemyng), and the beginning of recruitment sessions to find a new vocalist. Chris experiences his own strife with his Blood Pollution bandmates, particularly guitarist Rob Malcolm (Timothy Olyphant). During a live performance, Rob's playing fails to live up to Chris' over-demanding standards regarding note-for-note accuracy to the original Steel Dragon recordings, and Chris sabotages Rob's amplifier mid-song – a fight breaks out between the two onstage. The next day, Chris meets Blood Pollution at a rehearsal session, but he finds out that he has been replaced with his arch-rival, the (now former) lead singer of another Steel Dragon tribute band. Rob also cites Chris' inability to create his own musical style, preferring to remain the singer in a tribute band.
One day, Chris receives an unexpected phone call from Steel Dragon's founder and rhythm guitarist, Kirk Cuddy (Dominic West), and is offered an audition for the band (thanks to two of Blood Pollution's groupies, who showed Kirk a videotape of one of Blood Pollution's concerts). After hanging up on Kirk once, thinking he's being pranked by Rob, Chris ecstatically agrees. At the studio, he meets the band and gives an outstanding performance of "We All Die Young" (a Steel Dragon song in the movie, but it is a real song by Steelheart, whose lead vocalist, Miljenko Matijevic, provides Cole's singing voice for the film). Chris joins the band as their new singer, adopting the stage name "Izzy". Following a successful debut concert with Steel Dragon, Izzy must come to grips with the pressures of his new-found fame and success. The band embarks on a lengthy tour and Izzy experiences the excesses of the lifestyle, with the group's road manager, Mats (Timothy Spall), serving as a sympathetic mentor to Izzy.
His new lifestyle impacts his life both for better and worse, particularly with his relationship with his supportive girlfriend, Emily Poule (Jennifer Aniston), when she decides not to continue with him throughout the remainder of the tour as a rock star girlfriend, though Emily and Izzy agree to get back together when the tour reaches Seattle. Eventually, Steel Dragon stops in Seattle for a show, and Emily arrives at his hotel room as they had previously arranged, although Izzy had become so inebriated while on tour he forgot about the arrangement and did not even know what city he was in. Although taken aback by all the groupies, Emily still tries to reconnect with him, reminding him of their plans to meet up once he got to Seattle, however he is too intoxicated to really understand what she is saying, eventually suggesting they go to Seattle together. Heartbroken with his inconsiderate behavior, intoxication and the fact that he is sleeping with so many groupies, Emily leaves him.
Six months later, Izzy reports to the next series of Steel Dragon recording sessions with song concepts and artwork for the band's next album. The rest of the band like his ideas, but they reject them, with Kirk explaining that the band has to stay true to the "Steel Dragon thing" to fulfill fan expectations. Izzy is angered upon realizing that he was only recruited for his vocal abilities. After a heartfelt conversation with Mats about how he feared he had no control over the direction life has taken him, Izzy begins to reconsider his rock star lifestyle. On the next tour, in a scene directly paralleling one near the beginning of the film with their roles reversed, Izzy hears a fan (Myles Kennedy) singing along with him toward the end of a live concert. Impressed, Izzy pulls the fan, who introduces himself as Thor, onstage and hands him the microphone to finish the concert. Backstage, Izzy realizes that what he thought he wanted for so long was not what he wanted, and he says goodbye to Mats, departing from the band while doing so.
After leaving Steel Dragon and ditching his rock star image and stage name, Chris makes his way to Seattle and starts a new band with his old friend and former bandmate, Rob, allowing him to write his own music. Chris finds Emily working in the coffee shop she and her roommate purchased a few years earlier, and he is initially too ashamed to speak to her. While walking one evening, Emily sees a flyer for his band posted on the wall and takes it down. In the final scene, Chris is singing with his band in a bar and Emily walks in. Chris leaves the stage and speaks to her. They reconcile, ending the film with a kiss and the final note of Chris' first original song "Colorful" (which is a real song by The Verve Pipe).
During the credits, Cuddy talks about the future of the band and Bobby Beers is shown to have taken up Irish Dancing after his sacking from Steel Dragon.
The band members are portrayed by ex-Dokken and current Foreigner bassist Jeff Pilson, Black Label Society founder & Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Zakk Wylde, actor Dominic West, and ex-Foreigner and Black Country Communion drummer Jason Bonham (the son of the late John Bonham, drummer for Led Zeppelin). Myles Kennedy, who was at the time the lead vocalist of The Mayfield Four and now the front man of Alter Bridge and Slash's solo project, makes a cameo appearance.
The singing voice for Wahlberg's character was provided by Steelheart frontman Miljenko Matijevic for the Steel Dragon Songs, and the final number was sung by Brian Vander Ark of The Verve Pipe. Jeff Scott Soto (of Talisman, Yngwie Malmsteen, Soul SirkUS, and Journey) provided the voice of the Jason Flemyng's character Bobby Beers. Ralph Saenz (Steel Panther) also appears briefly, as the singer auditioning ahead of Chris at the studio.
Blood Pollution (Chris Cole's former band and a Steel Dragon tribute band) is also made up of known musical artists, including guitarist Nick Catanese (Black Label Society), drummer Blas Elias (Slaughter), and bassist Brian Vander Ark (The Verve Pipe, who also contributed a song to the film's soundtrack). Actor Timothy Olyphant portrays Blood Pollution's guitarist, Rob Malcolm. Bradley, the singer who replaces Chris in Blood Pollution, is played by Third Eye Blind frontman Stephan Jenkins.
After The New York Times ran a story on Tim "Ripper" Owens in 1997, various Hollywood studios ran to option the filming rights. Warner Bros. won the bid, and hired John Stockwell to write the script. Stockwell soon began researching the heavy metal music and tribute band scene and visited Owens' hometown of Akron, Ohio. Afterwards the project, under the working title Metal God, got the involvement of George Clooney's newly founded Maysville Pictures. Brad Pitt signed to star in 1998, but wound up dropping the project following creative differences with the studio. Eventually Mark Wahlberg, a former rapper with Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch who co-starred with Clooney in Three Kings, was hired for the main role in May 1999. Stephen Herek signed to direct in October, and the following month Jennifer Aniston became attached for the main female role, while Callie Khouri was hired to revise the script.
Wahlberg spent five months preparing for his role as Chris Cole, working with a vocal coach, growing his hair, attending the metal scene and wandering around Los Angeles in-character. A concert scene was shot at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena before 10,000 Metallica and Megadeth fans. While filming one Steel Dragon performance, the crew pranked Wahlberg by playing Marky Mark's "Good Vibrations" instead of a rock track, and footage of this is featured during the film's end credits. By 2001, Warner renamed the project from Metal God to Rock Star in order to attract a broader rock fandom instead of just metal fans.
The film opened at No. 4 at the U.S. box office taking US$6,018,636 in its opening weekend, and grossing a domestic total of $17,008,282 and $2,325,863 internationally for a worldwide gross of $19,334,145; based on a $57 million budget, Rock Star was a box office bomb.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 53% based on reviews from 129 critics. The site's consensus "Like its title, Rock Star is rather generic, being not so much about the heavy metal scene than about rock cliches and formula". On Metacritic, the film has a score of 54% based on 32 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "B-" on scale of A to F.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it 2.5 out of 4 and wrote: "By the end of the film I conceded, yes, there are good performances and the period is well captured, but the movie didn't convince me of the feel and the flavor of its experiences."
When Judas Priest bassist Ian Hill was asked about his reaction to Rock Star in an interview in PopMatters magazine Hill responded "Well, it was a true work of fiction, you know? When we heard about the production company were going to make a movie based, as far as we knew, about Ripper joining the band we offered our help. We said 'If there's anything you want to know, talk to us at the time.' And certainly our communication was cut off and that was it and they went off on their own tangent." Hill added "I mean, I quite enjoyed the movie. It was entertaining, you know?" Hill was quoted as saying "It had nothing to do with Rob Halford, Ripper Owens and Judas Priest, it's got nothing to do with that, whatsoever. It was fiction. Apart from the fact that 'Local Boy Makes Good'? That was the only true aspect of the movie." Hill was quick to add "I watched it once. I don't have the urge to watch it again."
|Soundtrack album by |
|Released||August 28, 2001|
A small number of the songs featured in the film and on the soundtrack were released after the dates given in the film. They are marked with an asterisk.
|1.||"Rock Star" (Art Alexakis)||Everclear||3:30|
|2.||"Livin' the Life" (Steve Plunkett, Peter Beckett)||Steel Dragon||3:14|
|3.||"Wild Side*" (Vince Neil, Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee)||Mötley Crüe||4:34|
|4.||"We All Die Young" (Miljenko Matijevic, Kenny Kanowski)||Steel Dragon||4:01|
|5.||"Blood Pollution" (Twiggy Ramirez)||Steel Dragon||3:59|
|6.||"Livin' on a Prayer*" (Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, Desmond Child)||Bon Jovi||4:08|
|7.||"Stand Up" (Sammy Hagar)||Steel Dragon||4:18|
|8.||"Stranglehold" (Ted Nugent)||Ted Nugent||8:23|
|9.||"Wasted Generation" (Desmond Child, A.Allen (Ajay Popoff), J. Allen (Jeremy Popoff))||Steel Dragon||2:54|
|10.||"Lick It Up" (Paul Stanley, Vinnie Vincent)||KISS||3:56|
|11.||"Long Live Rock 'n' Roll" (Ronnie James Dio, Ritchie Blackmore)||Steel Dragon||3:27|
|12.||"Devil Inside*" (Andrew Farriss, Michael Hutchence)||INXS||5:13|
|13.||"Colorful" (Brian Vander Ark)||The Verve Pipe||4:25|
|14.||"Gotta Have It" (Trevor Rabin)||Trevor Rabin||2:57|
Partial list of songs that were featured in the movie but did not appear on the soundtrack CD:
- AC/DC – "Are You Ready"*
- Culture Club – "Karma Chameleon"
- Def Leppard – "Let's Get Rocked"*
- Def Leppard – "Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)"
- Foghat – "Chateau Lafitte '59 Boogie"
- Frankie Goes to Hollywood – "Relax"
- Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch – "Good Vibrations"
- Ralph Saenz, Peter Beckett, and Steve Plunkett – "California Girls" (The Beach Boys cover)
- Talking Heads – "Once in a Lifetime"
- Steel Dragon – "Reckless" (Phoenix Down cover)
- Jennifer Aniston - Believe in Me
- Trevor Rabin - Batman Theme
- Steel Dragon - Crown of Falsehood (written by Zakk Wylde)
- Pat King & Brian Grant - Sheedy's
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- Wahlberg Humiliated With Old Track
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- Rock Star at Box Office Mojo
- Rock Star at Rotten Tomatoes
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- "Movie Title Search: STAR". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2019-08-09.
- Roger Ebert (September 7, 2001). "Rock Star". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2021-01-01.
- Maçek, J. C., III (May 31, 2015). "'We're All Fans': An Interview with Judas Priest's Ian Hill". PopMatters. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
- Rock Star at AllMusic
- "Warner Home Video's 'Rock Star' Bows on VHS and DVD Jan. 22". hive4media.com. October 22, 2001. Archived from the original on November 27, 2001. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
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