Justin Timberlake signs on to play Casablanca Records exec Neil Bogart in new biopic
Justin Timberlake is making quite a movie career out of playing real-life characters. In “Alpha Dog,” he played low-life Frankie Ballenbacher, who was based on Jesse James Hollywood’s buddy Jesse Rugge; in “The Social Network,” he portrayed internet entrepreneur Sean Parker, and now, he’ll bring colorful music executive Neil Bogart to the big screen. (Not to mention, he voiced Boo-Boo in “Yogi Bear.”)
“Spinning Gold” will tell the story of Bogart, who died of cancer in 1982 when he was 39, and his rise from a poor kid in Brooklyn to a major player in pop culture. “This is saga about a young dreamer who started with nothing and came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, believing anything was possible and every risk was worth taking,” said Bogart’s son/”Spinning Gold’s” screenwriter, Tim Bogart, to Deadline Hollywood.
Bogart accomplished a lot in his short life. After stints at Cameo-Parkway and Buddah Records, Bogart co-founded Casablanca Records. The first signing was Kiss, but the label will always be most closely associated with its disco acts like Donna Summer and the Village People, as well as funk act Parliament. He also started Boardwalk Records with Joan Jett as his debut artist. Casablanca was an innovative label: it was one of the first to issue 12” singles and also, smartly, licensed a number of European disco hits for the U.S.
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Casablanca also had a film division, which produced “Midnight Express” and “Thank God It’s Friday.”
There’s a lot of mine in Bogart’s story, given his personality and that it was a wild and wooly time in the music industry, largely before labels were owned my huge corporations and Bogart seemed to operate under the “whatever it takes” spirit of the times with the best of them. We’re hoping that his son isn’t tempted to clean up the story too much. In Frederic Dannen’s great book about the music industry, “Hit Men,” he talks about Bogart and Casablanca’s excesses, which in the ‘70s ran rampant, including purchasing two first-class plane tickets to fly a life-sized cake replica of Donna Summer from New York to making everyone in his Los Angeles office dress like sailors when the Village People’s “In The Navy” came out.
Timberlake has shown his greatest range on “Saturday Night Live,” more so than in feature films, so it will be interesting to see if he can tap into whatever silliness, bravado and humor he brings to “SNL” to “Spinning Gold.” Given his own natural charisma, he’s a good fit for Bogart and his understanding of how the record industry works from the inside could prove to be a valuable asset her.
The project will be produced by Boardwalk Films, an indie production company run by Bogart’s son, as well as by Timberlake. Production is expected to begin before the end of 2012. There are also plans for a soundtrack album that will include remakes of some of Casablanca's biggest hits remade by contemporary artists.
Is Timberlake a good choice? But more importantly, who should play Gene Simmons or Donna Summer?