Danny Boyle Was Planning a David Bowie Musical…Until David Bowie Nixed It

     November 10, 2015


The story of how the Aaron Sorkin-scripted Steve Jobs made it to the big screen could be a movie unto itself.

First there was the issue of finding a director. David Fincher seemed set to reteam with Sorkin following their successful collaboration on The Social Network, but had a falling out with Sony, the company responsible for the film’s production, after they balked at Fincher’s fee and marketing demands. Sony then found their director in Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), who brought the film over the finish line, but not before having trouble securing an actor to play Steve Jobs. Fincher envisioned Christian Bale in the title role, and that initial casting seemed to carry over when Boyle took the reins. Of course, Bale eventually dropped out, leaving the heavy lifting of Sorkin’s dialogue and three-act-structured-script to Michael Fassbender.


Image via Universal Pictures

The film finally took shape and was released in early October. While it was politely embraced by critics, it could not find an audience, leading to the news yesterday that Universal is pulling it from 2,000 theaters. Though there is still Oscar season to contend with, that was quite the disappointing ending to such a promising project, in all its potential iterations.

Now another wrinkle has been added to the story of how Steve Jobs came to fruition. According to Fact Magazine (via Pitchfork), Boyle had planned to be directing a musical film about David Bowie during the time he eventually was hard at work on Steve Jobs. Apparently, Boyle had been working with Frank Cottrell Boyce (24 Hour Party People) for years on the project, but had to abandon it once they learned Bowie wouldn’t grant them permission to use his songs. This halted the project and left Boyle, in his words, “in grief.” This freed him up to take on Steve Jobs, or, again in Boyle’s words, to “fill the space in my heart left by the abandoned Bowie script.” Boyle said he is “very keen” to direct a musical at some point.

I do hope Boyle is one day able to persuade Bowie to allow him to use his music for such a project. The idea alone is very intriguing. In fact, a Danny Boyle-directed musical about David Bowie sounds almost as good as a David Fincher-directed movie about Steve Jobs. Oh wait.


Image via Buena Vista Pictures

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