Legendary glam metal band Mötley Crüe gets the movie treatment, as distilled from their New York Times’ best-selling memoir, The Dirt.
Mötley Crüe were the kings of the Sunset Strip who turned a rampant local following into worldwide domination with more than 100 million albums sold globally, making them one of the biggest-selling groups of all time. The band solidified their lineup in 1981 and retired from active touring in 2015 on New Year’s Eve in Los Angeles. What happened in those 34 years together? Oh, just a shitload of drugs, nonstop tours, 14 marriages (dispersed between the four men), seven platinum-certified albums, three Grammy nominations, two heartbreaking deaths, and musical hits that continue to highlight one of the most decadent eras in rock ‘n’ roll. If you’ve listened to the radio, seen a movie, or been to a strip club – you’ve heard this genre-defining band. And now, thanks to Netflix, their debaucherous tale has finally found a home.
The Dirt adaptation has had a long road. The source material was first set for the screen in 2009, but had trouble finding the right set of circumstances for filming. And it’s no surprise – the book, a comprehensive memoir penned by the four members, with Rolling Stone writer Neil Strauss, clocks in at 428 pages; and even that barely scratched the surface of these wild tales. (The release date shifted from 2009 to 2011, then 2013, and was all but shelved until 2017 when Netflix finally came aboard.) To put it all into a palatable movie-length timeframe was a near-impossible task, with Jackass-franchise director Jeff Tremaine taking the helm for this hefty project.
Given the tight run-time, many of the infamous incidents that defined the band are truncated or completely left out. Some are mashed together to create timelines that include wide-ranging inaccuracies. (One is hilariously addressed by guitar whizz Mick Mars – played by Game of Thrones’ Iwan Rheon – where he admits that manager Doc McGhee never came to their “shit-hole apartment.”) It can be a source of frustration for fans and viewers – the choppiness of the melded scenes is somewhat jarring. But it’s also a stark reality: with history this massive, concessions must be made.
So how did the film fair? Well, it’s here that I must confess I’m a lifelong, ride or die Crüehead, and, try as I might, I am heavily biased towards this little gem. To me, the wait to see this come to fruition was epic, and the countdown to the release date was a huge thrill. (Stalking the band members’ Instagram and Twitter accounts for clues added to the excitement.) The mere 106-minute runtime felt like 15 minutes – it was over in the blink of an eye, and I was left wishing there’d been the time/money for a major motion picture release or, at the very least, a 6-part miniseries. That might’ve satiated me.
The fan feedback has been positive, as everyone is thrilled to have new material to pore over. (Mötley Crüe hit the studio with longtime producer and friend Bob Rock to release five new tunes to accompany The Dirt soundtrack. The recent songs sit comfortably next to their big hits, and their cover of Madonna’s Like A Virgin is hilariously divine. If you’re not dancing, you might be dead!) Critics may not be as in love, but this band has never been media darlings. Their lyrics may fall apart under scrutiny, and the film may not withstand much delving. But that’s not what they’re about – they are about visceral, fast, furious fun. There are few times I’ve felt happier than when I’m listening/dancing/watching the Crüe; and, with the right frame of mind, you can catch this wave too.
For the uninitiated who aren’t as invested, this will be quick fun. You’ll get the briefest taste of what it meant to live through 80’s hair rock – the best scene being a tour through Tommy Lee’s eyes (played to perfection by Colson Baker, aka Machine Gun Kelly) as he shows us what 24 hours on the road looked like for him. It will be difficult to fully invest in the characters – there isn’t enough screen-time to fully grasp their backstories. (And no one is going to accuse Pete Davidson – portraying Tom Zutaut, the famous A&R rep – of being a good actor.) But if you’re looking to enjoy a night in with a crazy cast, this film has you covered.
Regarding the timing of the release, it’s true that it might not be ideal. Bohemian Rhapsody swept the Oscars and usurped a lot of the rock biopic glory. And the Mötley ethos is certainly in direct opposition of the #MeToo climate. But the Crüe isn’t here to compete, apologize, or ace the Bechdel Test. They set out to become larger-than-life rock stars, with all the thrills and baggage that came with it; and they accomplished that, times a million. To know them is to love them. And I fucking love them.
I had the honor of interviewing Brittany Furlan Lee, Tommy Lee’s new bride, for her part in another great Netflix film, The American Meme. Towards the end of our chat, we got to talk about The Dirt and Tommy’s commitment to drumming. I had to edit this portion out of my original MovieBoozer post for space, but I thought it would be fun to include it now.
I heard that you have a role in The Dirt?
Yeah! I have a really small role in The Dirt, Tommy’s show coming out in March. They put me in a really tiny part. It’s one line. It’s cute though.
Well, I can’t wait for your projects, because they all sound amazing. I also can’t wait for The Dirt!
I know! The Dirt is going to be freaking awesome.
It’s going to be epic! I can’t wait. I’m so glad they finally found a way to bring it to the screen, because obviously the band, the legacy, the book; it’s all amazing.
Yeah, it took years; but they did it. It’s going to be rad. You’re going to love it.
Yeah, I can’t wait. I’ve seen the Crüe many, many times, but I think that final tour I went like ten times.
Oh, my god! That’s awesome.
You know, those guys, that energy, and what they’ve pulled off… they’re one of the best bands, ever! I’m still emotional that it’s over.
Aww! I’ll tell Tommy. That’s so rad. They put a lot of their heart and soul into that, especially Tommy. He came up with all the ideas for the roller coaster. He always wants to go bigger and better, constantly. He doesn’t give up. He’s the one that did that. It’s not the production. It’s Tommy sitting down and saying, “I want to go upside down! I want to be lit on fire. I want to be shot out of a cannon. I want to disappear.” He has all these crazy ideas, and that’s all him. It’s not some production person saying, “Oh, we think you should do this.” No, he drew that roller coaster out on a napkin at a production meeting. He’s like, “I want a roller coaster that looks like this.” That’s when it was the 360, and then the Cruecifly. He drew both of those out and had them design it.
I love that about him. He has ideas, and he not only brings them to life, but he brings them alive in the biggest way possible.
Yeah. He’s like, “Go big, or go the fuck home.” He goes so big. It’s kind of gnarly. I watch him, and it’s like, “How did you not throw up? You’re literally spinning, and you’re upside down.” I would be puking everywhere.
No, it’s insane. Of course, the final show, when he got stuck upside down for like 20 minutes or something…
Oh, my god. Twenty minutes?
I’m sure it felt like a long time to him. It was legit, at least 10 minutes or something. Way too long to be stuck upside down like that.
All the blood just rushing to your head? Okay, cool. No big deal! [laughs]
He was a total baller about it. He might have been terrified inside, but he didn’t miss a beat! He still had the whole stage banter going. “Hey, somebody bring me a beer, and somebody show me some tits. Men, women; I don’t care!”
He just kept talking to us, and kept the crowd entertained while he was probably fearing for his life.
Suspended upside down. Yeah, exactly.
Totally chill. He’s the GOAT of drummers.
He’s definitely a performer, that’s for sure!
Fans will love getting to see their icons come to life on the screen, and newbies will get a kick out of this epic tale of the hair metal heroes, flaws and all.
The Dirt (2019) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time you see a bottle of Jack!
Take a Drink: every time there’s a concert scene.
Take a Drink: every time the band argues, with each other or someone else.
Do a shot: for Ozzy and those poor ants…
Do a shot: for books! The Dirt is a must-read, plus Tommy Lee, Nikki Sixx, and Vince Neil all have best-sellers to help flesh out your Crüe knowledge.