"They never found a way to break us
down, that's why we're still around"
is 22 March 2019 – the day that
Crüeheads have been waiting so many years for: the release of The Dirt,
a globally available Netflix original movie.
Mötley Crüe - The Dirt - 2019
When author Neil Strauss was finalising The Dirt book, he asked me for some
assistance, so I provided him with a sixx-thousand-word analysis of his
manuscript – hence the shout out to me in the bestseller. I then
similar analysis to screenwriter Rich Wilkes as he was finishing his
movie script. That was 14 years ago, with lots of doubt since, that
this movie would ever get made. For this movie to see the light of day
seems like a miracle in some ways – another miracle being that all four
members have somehow made it through alive and are still with us today.
Producer of The Dirt,
Erik Olsen reached out to me in the days before
Christmas 2017, as they were prepping to shoot the movie in a few
months time. He said he wanted to pick my brains, so we chatted
on the phone, and although I was ready to provide further assistance to
the team, it turned out they didn't need any more from me. Fast-forward
to today, and Mötley Crüe's biopic is finally being released to the
This opinion piece is for the true fans of the band – the Crüeheads –
for it's us that know and love the World's Most Notorious Band the
most. But remember, opinions are like assholes: everyone has one. So I
expect there'll be heaps of The Dirt
movie reviews that you read, and some will surely stink. One
thing is for sure though: the movie version of our band's compelling
and unbelievable history contains a trove of factual occurrences and
subtle nuances that
help to make it a truly awesome film, along with other aspects that
may bother you though. So let's dig in…
The movie opens with a rapid-fire look at some of the happening trends
of the 1980s. These retro snippets let us know that what we are about
to experience is set in a very different time period than 2019. The
message "based on a true story" is then displayed on screen. The key
word here is "based" so you should not expect an extremely accurate
account of the band's history – Chronological Crue has already
documented that for you! This is showbiz, folks… entertainment. It's a
Hollywood movie, filmed in New Orleans, with actors – it's not another
documentary, and doesn't star the band members themselves in the lead
roles. Shortcuts simply have to be taken to compress their crazy
this 1hr 47min 23sec film.
Following a sold-out concert at the famous Whisky a Go-Go, the camera
provides a first-person view of walking to their usual after-party:
crossing N Clark St and up the hill a little to the band's apartment.
Directionally, this is accurate, even though "The Mötley House", the
band's 2-bedroom apartment financed by their first manager, was
actually a little further along at 1140 N Clark St (not at 1124 as so
many websites purport – fake news.) The Whisky we see is a fantastic
representation of the famous venue's facade on Hollywood's Sunset
Strip, especially considering the building used is actually just a
remodelled café in New Orleans called The Munch Factory.
Once inside The Mötley House, we are introduced to the band members –
Tommy Lee first, and then Nikki Sixx. It's at this point we understand
the narration we've been hearing is the voice of Nikki's character,
played by 26-year-old English actor Douglas Booth. Knowing Nikki's
voice extremely well after hearing it so much over decades now, it's
difficult for me to appreciate this is him at this point, even though
the footage of him lighting himself on fire visually helps. At least
Booth's voice has an American accent, not English.
We then meet Vince Neil played by Aussie actor Daniel Webber, while he
has bathroom sex in doggy style, as her boyfriend stands outside the
door like a virgin wondering what's going on (Webber also nails the
American accent.) And lastly we meet Mick Mars, lying on
top of a bed like he's in a coffin (reminding me of him in the band's
video clip for If I Die Tomorrow),
and wanting no part of the
debauchery that's going on in the rest of the house, nor the advance
from a bikie chick (played by Tommy Lee's new wife Brittany
Furlan.) The short narration that simply calls Mick an alien is perfect
– a case of less is more.
This introductory scene inside The Mötley House concludes with Tommy
finishing giving (consenting) oral sex to an excited woman we know from
the book as Bullwinkle. While Red Hot
plays in the background, she
orgasms and squirts across the room. It's equal parts comedy and shock
value, and is certainly based on the said capabilities of Tommy's
girlfriend Lisa of the time.
We're only 2 minutes into the film as THE
DIRT title is displayed, and
already a lot of Mötley history has been crammed in, while we've also
been accurately introduced to the character traits and personalities of
the four band members – "a gang of fucking idiots" who aren't too high
and mighty to poke fun at themselves. This is the kind of sex, drugs
and rock'n'roll opening that Crüeheads were hoping for… me too.
From here though, I'm not going to give you such a blow-by-blow account
of each scene in the rest of the movie… for there is A LOT of blow in
I watched the movie
through twice before writing this article in the
weeks before its release, and what stands out to me most overall
is Mötley Crüe's determination to succeed against all odds, as the band
rises and lives fast through the 1980s. The film's main time period is
focussed on this decade of excess. It's an engrossing tale of survival
through major adversities in their young lives, compounded by their own
misgivings. They rise quickly and crash and burn, but learn and go on
with the show.
The real-life traits of the four band members are well portrayed by the
actors, while their characters focus on key aspects for the sake of the
get an insight into Nikki's troubled childhood and broken
relationships with his parents Frank Feranna Sr. and Deanna Richards.
We see him spiral down with his heroin addiction and temporary death
from overdose, and eventual redemption.
Showing that he came from a
more normal and loving upbringing in
Covina, California, Tommy's hopeless romantic character then focuses
more on the theme of celebrity marriage, with spousal abuse being his
Along with his constant
womanising, two sad deaths and their subsequent
fallout are the main incidents for Vince. The first is the car crash
when his passenger friend (Hanoi Rocks' drummer Razzle) dies, and he does some
jail time for vehicular manslaughter. The second is when his four-year-old
daughter Skylar dies from cancer a decade later.
Mick is a more subdued
character, just like in real life, and his
degenerative bone disease (or curse, as he calls it) Ankylosing
Spondylitus is the primary concern for his character, along with
having to put up with all the stupid shit from his younger band mates.
The toughest thing for me to acclimatise to throughout the film is the
actors who play the four band members. Having studied, researched, and
written about Mötley Crüe's decadence over the last two decades more
than anyone else in the world, I feel I know their characters so well;
their look and voices are of course instantly recognisable to me.
Therefore, at times, it can seem like the actors are imposters –
like a pretend or fake Mötley sporting bad wigs and dress-ups,
lacking the unique rock star swagger of the true Crüe; evoking a
I see a lot of hairstylists listed in the credits, but I said bad
wigs because I feel there's just not
enough lift through the crown on
their shag hairdos much of the time, particularly with Nikki. Maybe
supplies of Aquanet are still depleted from when they were the shag
kings in the '80s, or perhaps they
didn't want to overdo the hair height like Vince's on the back of the
white-lettered first pressing of Too
Fast For Love on Leathür Records,
but this honestly takes me some getting used to.
It's no diss on the actors though, as I think they really do a
tremendous job overall. As much as the casting believability is hard to
get used to at times, I think it really was the impossible task to get
perfect, especially for diehards. When I think back to recently
watching the actor who played Freddie
Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody,
I felt there was a lot of times that he
didn't look like or evoke Freddie to me, even though there was lots of
times where I thought he was the spitting image – and he just won a
Best Actor Academy Award for it. So I try not to let it bother me, and
just sit back and enjoy the story.
What I love about these main four actors though, is how they have
captured their characters' personalities. In the lead-up to the movie,
I saw some stills of Iwan Rheon smiling as Mick, but was particularly
relieved that his character turns out to be just as dark, cynical, and
dry-humoured as the real Mick I've been fortunate enough to experience
first-hand. I do think Iwan looks most like Mick in the doctor's room
scene when he was red-haired Bob Deal with a moustache.
Fans have voiced
concerns over a rapper playing Tommy Lee, but I think
the gangly Colson Baker aka Machine Gun Kelly was a super choice and
does a phenomenal job; he's probably the strongest of the four for me
overall – even down to his cigarette smoke antics. I see that so many of
his fans are exploring Mötley now, opening up a new audience for the
I was expecting the movie to be gritty and confronting, and it
is. After the opening, we are taken back into some violent incidents of
Nikki's childhood when he is still named Frank. Vince Mattis who plays
teenage Frank is very strong; he's a badass kid exuding the right
attitude for the role. (I also love the choice of T-Rex's Solid Gold
Easy Action that he jams to, along with the New York Dolls,
Kiss posters and records in his bedroom.)
The young girl Kamryn Ragsdale who plays Vince's daughter Skylar also
does a tremendous job, giving us a heart-wrenching scene while lying on
her hospital bed. I didn't expect these couple of high-impact moments
to be delivered by such young actors.
Speaking of confronting moments, the drug use in the movie is also very
real. Sure we see big bongs being smoked in the first Mötley House
scene and Rockandi pool party scene, but it doesn't take long for
things to escalate with lines of glamourised cocaine being snorted off
bodies and silver trays, to the in-your-face close-ups of heroin fixes
being tied-off and injected. The camera doesn't pull away as the
needles go all the way in and out, even if you're squirming. (I love
the cinematic version of Live Wire
sung by Megan 'Shahnaz' Kabir that plays
during Nikki's heroin scene in 1987.)
There were a couple of goosebump moments for me on first watch: the
first came when the band forms and they get the song Live Wire
right – I could feel the ignition of the chemistry or "weird electrical
humidity" that is these four playing together. The second was when
Nikki overdoses and changes his answering machine message to say, "I'm
not home because I’m dead" as the Johnny Thunders song You Can't Put
Your Arms Around A Memory plays.
Back to the formation of the band though, and whilst not entirely
accurate, I feel these scenes do give a great sense to fairweather
how it all came together. For example:
actually met Nikki in the Denny's diner for lunch, accompanied by
his friend Joey Vera, whereas in the movie it takes place at night
after a London gig, and Tommy is with his girl. The Denny's sign on the
door and menus are a nice touch that hardcore fans may notice.
Mick's best friend John 'Stick' Crouch drove him to audition
North Hollywood house, in his burgundy 1971 Mazda RX-3 coupe, whereas
the movie shows Mick drove himself. His amp hanging out the back of the
vehicle though is another correct little detail that's awesome.
We see the dowdy rhythm
guitarist Robin bumbling through Live
it's accurate in the way Mick fires him and he leaves in tears.
However, there's no mention of the white-gloved singer Odean Peterson
who had just
signed on with the band and was soon fired as they began recording – I
guess he burnt that bridge when he filed a small claims lawsuit against
them soon after.
The day-time backyard party
scene with Vince singing in Rockandi
but even though that band used to play backyard parties, his soon-to-be
new band members actually saw him perform one night at the Starwood,
and then cornered him in the club's bathroom with an approach to join
them. Being called a "blonde-haired bitch" is accurate though, and it's
a cool version of Billy Squier's My
Kinda Lover that we hear him
singing (vocals by Timmy Cherry), although Cheap Trick's He's a Whore would have been better
from a historical standpoint. Vince then being driven to the
audition by his girlfriend Lovey (Leah Graham in real life and played
by Katherine Neff) in her red car is certainly accurate enough.
The scene where they
come up with the name Mötley Crüe shows just the
four band members present, whereas this took place during a BBQ at
Nikki's place on 5 April 1981 and other people were there. XMAS was
indeed the best name they had (first I've seen it with double-S
though), until Mick offered up Motley Crew – a
band name that he had first thought of in 1976. By the way, you
may recognise the blue-labelled beers they are drinking as Löwenbräu,
which provided an inspiration for the umlauts
in the band's name. This
is a great touch that only dedicated Crüeheads will pick up on. Another
moment here is the band name The Four Skins that Tommy's character
suggests. This was added as a cool nod to when the Crüe played a secret
warm-up club show at London's Marquee as The Foreskins on 14 August
So like with all these scenes in the movie, all the minute details can
be analysed, scrutinised, and nit-picked, but it's fair to say that
by-and-large, the Producers and Director have done a fantastic job of
portraying the formation of the band.
The band's first gig took place at the Starwood just 19 days later.
While I've never heard that Tommy knocked over his cymbal stand as they
were to begin, I think it's just a device to show how green they were,
since the band had never run through a full set in rehearsals before,
and didn't know the set list until Nikki taped a handwritten sheet of
paper to the stage floor at the last minute, which we do indeed see in
the film. Whilst the handwriting of the set list certainly resembles
Nikki's usual scrambled mix of upper and lower case lettering, the
songs listed are not exactly what was played at that show. When Vince
asks Nikki if he thinks there's going to be anyone out there in the
crowd tonight, this is something that Vince has actually talked about
on camera in the past. Nikki putting the black makeup stripes under his
eyes didn't actually happen until their New Year's Evil show at the end
of 1982 though, but I think it's a useful device to help with character
recognition for viewers.
The fight that ensues during their first gig when Vince is spat on is
the stuff of legend. This is accurate so far as the tale was told over
many, many years, however it was actually a publicity tactic that
worked well for the band in the early years. The girlfriend of Randy
Piper from W.A.S.P. was hired to film the shows from the club's
balcony, and the black and white video of the Crüe performing twice
that night can be watched on YouTube, sans fight scene.
The Looks That Kill video-shoot and
live concert footage shown over the
years really is done incredibly well. Sure, I doubt there was a
stage-diver during their sold-out show at the Whisky when Zutaut first
saw them play, gearheads will pick that some of their guitars are not
100% accurate, and they
used less pyro in their Shout At The
Devil concerts, but the stage
clothes and sets are brilliantly re-created. The big concert scenes
were filmed at UNO Lakefront Arena in New Orleans – a venue that the
Crüe actually played during their '84, '85, '87, '90, and '05 tours.
One of the endearing qualities of The
Dirt book, is that each band
member told their own version of events, which sometimes contradicted
each other. We get a taste of this in the movie too when Doc McGhee and
Doug Thaler become their managers, and Mick's character says that it
actually didn’t happen this way – Doc never came to The Mötley House.
Whilst this is easy enough to digest and the culling of one manager
doesn't harm the storyline, there is one condensed aspect that is
likely to jar far more on hardcore fans: Vince's wives and daughters.
Now, I'm sure you can appreciate that each of our four band members
have all had multiple wives and divorces, and multiple children, so to
give us a compelling storyline containing them all is like trying to
fit a big square peg into a small round hole. Taken from Vince and
Sharise too soon by cancer, Skylar's short life is the one of all the
children that is the most impactful on the overall story of Mötley Crüe.
As we see in the movie, it's true that Vince's wife was five-months
pregnant at the time of his car crash on 8 December 1984. However, this
was his first wife Beth Lynn, whom he married in January 1983, and gave
birth to their daughter Elizabeth in April 1985. The movie makes us
think it is mud-wrestler Sharise, played by Levin Rambin, whom Vince
didn't meet at the Tropicana until August 1986. Their daughter Skylar
was then born in March 1991 and lost her cancer battle in August 1995,
so there's no way Skylar could have visited Vince before a show on the Theatre of Pain tour, as we saw.
Whilst I'm sure no disrespect is
intended to any of these ex-wives or children, I can appreciate why
they have condensed these occurrences in this way for the sake of the
Given Tommy’s high
profile marriage to Pamela Anderson that provided
paparazzi tabloid fodder at supermarket checkouts through the '90s, I
somewhat surprised that she does not feature in the film though. Again,
I presume this was done for the sake of sticking to the key story
elements for each of the characters given all the constraints, rather
than it being left out for any other specific reason. One famous wife
is enough to make the point.
did serve some jail time for spousal abuse when with Pamela, and
we get a look at this topic in the movie when we see him hit his first
wife Roxy (that's a character name; she was actually Elaine Starchuk,
aka Candice Starrek) while
driving across middle America in their tour bus. This is after she
stabs him in
the back with a pen and won't stop calling his mother foul names,
instigated by Tommy's mother previously calling her a groupie. The
scene conveys their tumultuous three-month marriage fine in the story
but fans have previously been told the stabbing took place in their
kitchen with a
butter knife after she was convinced he was having an affair. The punch
to her mouth that knocked a cap off her tooth actually took place a
little later in a limo ride to Wrestlemania, when she riled Tommy by
incessantly calling his mother foul names, after she recently called
her Lisa (Bullwinkle), which was the name of his previous girlfriend.
Rebekah Graf is very well cast as actress Heather Locklear, who becomes
Tommy's wife. The resemblance is especially striking during the wedding
scene. Tommy didn't actually meet Heather at Vince's house in Redondo
Beach as the movie shows, but he did mistakenly think she was actress
Heather Thomas. It's interesting that Heather returns serve by saying
Tommy is in Whitesnake, since their videos featured Tawny Kitaen, whom
Heather actually warned Tommy to steer clear of in fear of a looming
After seeing the movie's trailer, I know some fans were upset that
Vince crashed a red Corvette instead of a red Ford Pantera. It also
crashes into a blue car instead of a white Volkwagen. I understand this
done simply due to the movie's budget constraints. R.I.P. Razzle.
The team also did splendidly with replicating the Crüe's tattoos on the
actors, as their ink was added to so much over the years. No easy feat
Colson Baker playing Tommy, since so much of the actor's body is
tattooed and TBone wore the least amount of clothing. Sure his tribal
backpiece we see appears a bit smaller than Tommy's, but the most
noticeable miss in the tattoo department for me is Nikki's bare chest
in the 1987 overdose jab scene - it's missing the rose and keys tattoo
on his right chest that we saw him getting in the band's Uncensored home video released in
1986. Perhaps they felt this would have distracted from
the jabs and subsequent bruising.
character, played by Tony Cavalero, is also
entertaining and engaging. The poolside scene captures the gross
ant-snorting and piss-licking antics that took place in Lakeland,
Florida on 22 February 1984. Like the opening squirting scene, this
provides both comedy and shock, something that Director Jeff Tremaine
is accustomed to through his past experiences as the Co-Creator and
Director of Jackass. The
great scene where a mirror breaks over David
Lee Roth also falls into this category.
Saturday Night Live
comedian Pete Davidson acts as the band's Elektra
Records A&R man Tom Zutaut. While his clothing style is on point,
he probably bears the least similarity to the actual character of them
all to me. This further stands out when the real Tom Zutaut cameos
alongside his actor during a backstage scene where Nikki negotiates the
rights to the band's music.
Speaking of cameos, did you notice the extras that resemble Steven
Adler (without a plaster cast on his arm) and Slash from Guns N' Roses
the Franklin Plaza Hotel room when Nikki's drug dealer shoots him up
and he OD’s? Producer Erik Olsen also cameos as a radio creep during
Tommy's 'A Day In The Life Of' scene, right after he punches Zutaut in
the balls. He asks Tommy if he remembers pissing on a cops' car last
Love it or hate it, Mötley Crüe did have a different singer in John
Corabi and released a now-acclaimed self-titled album with him in 1994.
The original movie script I reviewed only included a snippet of him in
the studio singing while recording, so I was pleased that he had a
little more airtime in the final product, by way of an MTV interview
scene and walking on stage. Even though the hair has a decent amount of
curl to resemble Crab's, I unfortunately don't connect Anthony
Valbiro's facial expressions with those of Corabi at all. (Anthony is
also the voice of Ten Second Songs on YouTube.)
So anyway, some people will always see the Jack bottle half-empty,
while others see it half-full. What I'm saying is that for
everything little thing diehard fans may pick as a fault in the movie,
well be able to counter with another positive.
Like, if you said Mötley never played at Gazzarri's as was
on the big mural, I would say sure, but did you notice the accurate
re-creation of this actual photo of Tommy and his sister Athena
hanging on the wall of their family home?
Or if you said that Doc McGhee hadn't managed Kiss when he met Mötley
(that began in 1995), or Doc didn't get Entertainment or Death tattooed
on him, that was the other manager Doug Thaler, I would ask if you saw
the correct date of 7 Nov 1980 stamped on the official paperwork when
Frank changed his name to Nikki.
There is so much greatness in this movie for fanatics of the band. Like
he's not going to be an Electrician, at the time he's snorting the
first cocaine of the movie with his girlfriend Lovey. Well, Vince was
living with her at her parents' house at that time, and working as an
apprentice for her father's business Graham Electric. Lovey may seem
unnecessarily bossy or bitchy when she accompanies Vince to the
audition to make sure the band is good enough, but at the time she was
acting as Rockandi's manager by performing functions like booking them
gigs at the Starwood and Gazzari's. She also did actually buy those
white leather pants for Vince from North Beach Leathers, which he
mentioned backstage before their first show. The true historical
details crammed into this film for fans really is incredible. I think
you get my point.
And I'm sure those of you who have been to the Rainbow Bar & Grill
on the Sunset Strip will also appreciate the brilliant resemblance to
this establishment during those scenes - that's because they actually
shot it there. I wonder if there were any suprises under your table?
Even the Buddhist statue in the entrance of Tommy's home near the end
was the right touch of décor, along with the koi print on his wall.
Lastly, how great was it seeing the real Nikki and Tommy at the end of
the movie, along with footage from the final show on New Year's
Eve 2015? OK, I admit it: I got more goosebumps at this point, as I
flashed back to being at these last concerts on the other side of the
world and partying with Tommy backstage after their final concert.
It was also fun to see
actual footage from over the years in a
side-by-side comparison to scenes from the film. You can see here just
how much of a stellar job the actors and entire crew have done to bring
this story to life. One of my favourites here is when Nikki bangs
Tommy's head against the table inside the Rainbow, which was actually
seen on The Old Grey Whistle Test
TV show during a backstage interview
with the band, right after their first UK performance at Donington
Monsters of Rock on 18 August 1984.
I'm sure many will feel the book is better than the movie, as is so
often the case, but I do believe this truly is a great rock'n'roll
movie that captures the excess of the bygone era and the amazing
our band Mötley Crüe. They did it! And I trust you'll join me in
watching it over and over, again and again.
PS: My favourite line of the movie is when Mick says, "My back
hurts from carrying this band all tour."
got the full, true history of Mötley Crüe in these books yet?
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