Heart will be the next big rock band to get the biopic treatment, frontwoman Ann Wilson has exclusively revealed — and while such films can be hit-or-miss, we know that Heart’s story will be in the capable hands of a fellow female Northwest rock pioneer.
Speaking to Yahoo Entertainment/SiriusXM Volume on the SiriusXM show “Volume West” this week, the Heart singer, who founded the group 50 years ago with her younger sister Nancy Wilson, announced that Sleater-Kinney’s Seattle-born Carrie Brownstein, also known as the star of IFC’s Portlandia, is writing the script, and will also direct. Lynda Obst, renowned for her work on Flashdance, Adventures in Babysitting, Sleepless in Seattle, and many other box-office smashes, will produce the project for Amazon.
As for who will play Ann and Nancy — and whether those actresses will actually sing, as Taron Egerton did in the Elton John film Rocketman, or lip-sync, as Oscar-winner Rami Malek did in Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody — that’s still being figured out. “A few actresses have come forward, but no one that's right,” Ann said. A certain Oscar-winner was actually passed over: “Anne Hathaway came forward, but I don't think she's exactly right for it,” Ann explained. As for which actresses Ann would like to see take on the iconic Wilson roles, she said, “I just don't have any idea. I'm too close to it. … But it's known that the role of Nancy and the role of me is being cast. … I'm just as excited about finding out as you are.”
“I can't tell you all about it, because it's still being written right now.. …I saw the first draft of [Brownstein’s] script, and it's really cool,” Ann continued, revealing that the movie, which is “definitely coming along” but is “still in development right now because of COVID slowed everything down,” will begin with the Wilsons’ childhood and end in the ‘90s. That means it will dive into the bittersweet 1980s, which was Heart’s most commercially fruitful period, but a time when they felt they had surrendered too much artistic control. Ann told Yahoo Entertainment in 2014, “For us, that was a devil's bargain, because we'd always written our own stuff — except for the '80s, when we had our biggest hits. Our creative selves took a seat behind our showbiz selves.”
“We have gone through times [since then] when we didn’t play those ‘80 songs, because they are pretty vacuous,” Ann chuckled during this week’s interview, though she clarified that she and Nancy are now willing to revisit those hits in concert, albeit in a new and more authentic way. “They can be made cool, but you have to stay true to what made people like them back in the ‘80s,” Ann said. “Like ‘Never,’ which has absolutely nothing to it at all, except the word ‘Never’! You have to figure out a way to frame this word ‘never’ and make it bounce along and be compelling. It's kind of a tightrope to walk, because you don't want to take the song ‘Never’ and turn it into reggae or something like that.
“Of course, the whole point of the ‘80s was to be not authentic, was to be a sort of light and poppy, with all that weird makeup and strange hair and all that. I mean, it was all about being theatrical and unreal,” Ann continued — echoing a statement from a 2017 Yahoo Entertainment interview, when she said of that era, “I've never known another time where there's been a lower premium set on female naturalness. It was just so completely fake and phony, and that was the whole point of it. … It was stilettos, shiny stretchy pants, corsets, fake nails, fake hair, fake lashes, everything fake. … I remember what a pain it was to get into those outfits, especially when you took them away from the video set and out onto the live stage in the heat and stuff! Incredible costuming challenges.”
The Heart biopic, ‘80s costuming challenges and all, is obviously still in development, but Ann has been keeping busy in 2020, despite not being able to tour either solo or with Heart. She just released her first solo song since 2018, a timely cover of Steve Earle’s “The Revolution Starts Now,” and while she is working on original music as well, her next release will be a studio version of her cover of “Rooster,” a ‘90s classic by fellow Seattle rock legends Alice in Chains. “After I recorded the song, I thought, ‘God, this sounds really good. This is a good song for me.’ I ran it by [Alice in Chains guitarist/co-vocalist] Jerry [Cantrell], and he thought it was a great idea, so I'm going to put it out,” she said.
Ann also shared her memories of late Alice in Chains frontman Layne Staley (a man whose tragic story definitely warrants its own biopic), saying, “He was a great person. He was complicated, you know? But I found that he was kind of like an elf, really. All the drugs and craziness aside, I found that his spirit was really pretty illuminated.” Ann will perform “Rooster” on the Museum of Pop Culture's Dec. 1 live-stream event, when Alice in Chains receive the museum’s 2020 Founders Award; other performers will include Metallica, Billy Corgan, Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic, the Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins, and Heart’s own Nancy Wilson.
As for the possibility of new Heart music — after the Wilson sisters became estranged in 2016, but repaired relations and resumed touring in 2019 — Ann said, “I've got a bunch of songs that I'm going to be really releasing… but there's all kinds of writing going on. And who knows where they're going to end up? We don't write and earmark a song, really; we just write songs. If the song really tells us that belongs with a certain entity, then that's where it goes.”
The above interview is taken from Ann Wilson’s appearance on the SiriusXM show “Volume West” on Nov. 25, 2020. Full audio of that conversation is available on the SiriusXM app. Watch Yahoo Entertainment’s extended interview with Ann Wilson from 2017 below:
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