David Bowie was not just a musical genius and a masterful showman, he was also a bone fide cultural icon who almost singlehandedly pioneered the concept of reinvention, morphing from hippie to mod, Ziggy Stardust to the Thin White Duke, macho to femme—and taking the rest of us mere mortals along for the ride. So the prospect of a Bowie biopic is… slightly scary. How could a film possibly capture the breadth of his brilliance? These movies rarely get it right. The Bohemian Rhapsody disaster only came out last year! What hath we wrought.
But today, August 20th, Salon Pictures released the first look at Stardust, directed by Gabriel Range, written by Christopher Bell, and starring South African actor and musician Johnny Flynn as Bowie. Tackling just a slice of life—as opposed to the man’s entire, huge existence—Stardust will focus on Bowie’s first trip to America in 1971, leading up to the creation of his Ziggy Stardust persona. (No Bowie movie is ever going to be brave enough to take on the Thin White Duke or the Berlin years, but that’s just this blogger’s opinion).
Flynn recently appeared in the BAFTA-winning film Beast and the Amazon adaptation of Thackeray’s Vanity Fair. He is also the very charming star of Netflix’s Lovesick, the shockingly pleasant show about chlamydia. (It was originally dubbed Scrotal Recall, a grosser if funnier title.) Stardust also features Jena Malone as Bowie’s then-wife Angie–who would eventually become the manufacturer of reality television’s darkest, most hilarious moment ever–and Marc Maron as music publicist Rob Oberman. The film’s press team is comparing it to biopics like Control (about Joy Division’s tragic Ian Curtis) and Nowhere Boy (John Lennon), both of which were sad and good.
But, even before its release, Stardust has already faced some controversy. In January, Bowie’s son, Moon director Duncan Jones, tweeted his disapproval of the film. “As it stands, this movie won’t have any of dads music in it, & I can’t imagine that changing,” he wrote, adding that the project did not have his family’s blessing.