John Ridley’s anticipated biopic depicting beloved rockstar Jimi Hendrix is facing a haze of issues behind the scenes. Starring Andre 3000 (a.k.a. Andre Benjamin from Outkast), Imogen Poots, and Hayley Atwell, the film depicts Hendrix’s pre-fame years- but how accurate is the portrayal of our legendary guitarist? While the image is spot on- Andre pulls off the Hendrix look uncannily- the actual content of the film is still under scrutiny by Hendrix’s family, friends, and estate.
Jimi Hendrix’s brother recently questioned the film’s legitimacy in a letter to the Seattle Times, claiming his “name was credited on [this] film and that [his] family photos have been used,” going on to state “I have never given my permission for either nor have I ever spoken to Ridley or any of his people.”
Leon has not been the only one to raise concerns. Jimi’s former girlfriend, Kathy Etchingham, spoke out after viewing a scene depicting Hendrix hitting her character, played by Hayley Atwell. Etchingham reported that “Jimi was never violent towards me” describing him as a “gentle”, “funny”, and “articulate”. See her take on the film’s creative liberties, including claims of a “political, racial, and sexist agenda” in her personal review here. Filmakers have also struggled with rights to use original music in the Hendrix. You may wonder, how could you possibly produce a film biopic of Jimi Hendrix with no Hendrix records on the soundtrack? Hendrix’ estate refused to grant producers any rights to his music. Instead, the film will feature Andre 3000 performing covers of covers-that is versions of songs from the Beatles, Muddy Waters, Elmore James that Hendrix once covered himself. While disappointing for viewers, it’s not detrimental since the film is set in “Hendrix’s pre-fame era.. the story of Jimi being discovered as a backup musician and how he went to London.” according to producer Sean McKittrick.
While the misrepresentations and issues of the film are definitely concerning, the film is likely to garner loads of attention from Hendrix fans, theatre-goers, and critics upon release in September. Let’s hope the film sparks a revival of interest in Jimi’s revolutionary music and talent, instead of interest any soap-opera antics used for dramatic effect. At least the casting is on point- Andre 3000 looks awesome as Hendrix.
Watch the official trailer here.
In the meantime, two more Hendrix biopics are in the works: one from ICM authorized to use Hendrix’s music, and another starring Anthony Mackie depicting the last 9 days before Hendrix overdosed at the age of 27.