PHIL COLLEN Doesn't Think DEF LEPPARD's Story Is 'Interesting' Enough For Proper Biopic: 'It's Been Done'

October 25, 2023

In a recent interview with Guitar Interactive magazine, DEF LEPPARD guitarist Phil Collen was asked if he thinks there will ever be a proper LEPPARD biopic in the style of QUEEN's mega-successful "Bohemian Rhapsody" and Elton John's "Rocketman". He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I don't think… After the QUEEN one, and the Elton John one was great. They've done it. It's much more of an interesting story, I think. And plus you've seen it. It's like a rock band does this, comes from this, massive success, someone dies — it's always the same thing. And so it's been done. So I don't think they could do that. And the one that VH1/MTV did for us was, it's a TV hour, which is 50 minutes with commercials and what have you. So, that's what it was — low budget, obviously, all of that stuff. So yeah, I don't think it was ever gonna be. spectacular, but it was just an insight more than anything else."

Earlier this year, Collen's DEF LEPPARD frontman Joe Elliott appeared more open to the idea of a proper biopic, telling U.K.'s Metro: "There's always something being discussed, but let's not forget there was an MTV movie in 1999 that was fucking awful! It was low-budget, badly researched, and I had to intervene at one stage to say 'you can't put Phil in the band while we're doing 'High 'N' Dry'.' We'd get slaughtered by our fans. Anything that happens from here on will be a hell of a lot more accurate.

"There is a story to tell, but the only problem is from a media perspective it's just about two big things: Rick's [Allen, DEF LEPPARD drummer] arm and Steve's [Clark, late DEF LEPPARD guitarist] death. After that, there isn't much that would surprise anyone.

"I can walk down the street in a DEF LEPPARD shirt on show day and no one knows who I am! We'd have to pull out a lot of truths that were never told to make it interesting."

The aforementioned movie, "Hysteria - The Def Leppard Story", was produced by VH1 and was described as "the true story of one of the most successful pop-metal bands of the '80s." Upon its release, it was slammed by Deseret News music editor Scott Iwasaki as a "lame" movie which reduced the DEF LEPPARD bandmembers to "one-dimensional caricatures." Iwasaki added: "If the film weren't based on a real band, I'd swear it was supposed to be the sequel to Rob Reiner's 1984 mockumentary 'This Is Spinal Tap'."

In a December 2019 interview with SiriusXM's "Trunk Nation", Elliott said that he "wouldn't say no" to making a proper LEPPARD biopic. "You've got to remember the one that was done for us was 20 years ago," he said. "It was such a non-event. In the history of music, people weren't doing movies on bands; there hadn't been a biopic on THE [ROLLING] STONES or THE BEATLES, so for VH1 to decide to do one on us, because they wanted to pick on the humanistic story of [drummer] Rick's recovery, it only went as far as 1986, you've gotta remember, so Steve was still a very big part of the band. It was low budget. It was an experiment on VH1's part. We had barely any say in what they did… They were trying to rush the storyline so much that they had Phil in the band for the 'High 'N' Dry' tour. And I said, 'You can't do that. You'll be slaughtered by our fans. You have to change it.' Other than that, it was shot in Canada, so everything was on the wrong side of the road. It was 20 years ago. It was an experiment that wasn't really great. Things have moved a long way since then. The QUEEN movie set a precedent that's gonna be pretty hard to top. A billion dollars at the box office is insane. I mean, that's bigger than [James] Bond movies. The Elton [John biopic] did incredibly well. [MÖTLEY CRÜE's] 'The Dirt' did really, really well.

"If somebody comes to us one day and says that they wanna do it, we're not gonna stop them," he continued. "Because now there's such a standard set that it would have to match those three movies that we mentioned. So it would be a much, much better version of what that story was. The story is gonna be the same. There's probably a million biopics about certain presidents, like, say, [John F.] Kennedy. And they all have the assassination thing shot from a different angle, but it's essentially the same story. With us, it's gonna be the same story. Band forms in Sheffield, has some success, drummer loses his arm, has some more success, guitarist loses his life, band carries on, and we basically hang in there as best we can to promote what we are. Yeah, it could make a good film. I personally, as a human being, think that LYNYRD SKYNYRD have got one way over everybody else when it comes to personal tragedy, so they would be above us, in my estimation, as the necessity for a film being made about yet another rock band; they really did have it tough. But, yeah, you never say never. We're not gonna fund one ourselves, but if Pixar or Disney or somebody decided they wanted to do it, we would embrace it the same way we ended up embracing the [Rock And Roll] Hall Of Fame."

In 2014, Flavorwire called "Hysteria - The Def Leppard Story" "one of the most unintentionally funny biopics VH1 has ever put out," saying it "features some terrible acting, awful special effects when it comes to Rick Allen's car accident, and uneven pacing, ultimately resulting in something of a rock 'n' roll PSA."

In 2018, Elliott addressed the significant inaccuracies that appear in "Hysteria - The Def Leppard Story", which was filmed in Canada, saying that much of it was out of the band's control. "The road markings were all wrong," he told Planet Rock. "I mean, the opening scene, I think, has got 'Sheffield 1 mile, London 46.' I was five-foot-eight in the film. I'm six-one. Phil [Collen, guitar] was Australian. Rick's mom was Irish. My parents had a dog — wrong. And my dad was bald. My dad watched it and he went, 'I've got more bloody hair than that.' I think they got Rick Savage [bass] pretty well; I thought that was pretty good. The very ending was not bad. But they didn't really consult us much. I did script doctor it to a point, but then they would actually script doctor my script doctoring, because they wanted it to fit their budget and all this kind of stuff, so we kind of just went, 'Whatever.'"

Elliott didn't completely pan the film, explaining that DEF LEPPARD was pleasantly surprised to be the subject of a biopic at a time when biographical movies about bands were few and far between.

"Looking at the positive on it, if there is one, the fact that they actually made a film about us in 2000 is quite cool, because by then, there was no films on THE BEATLES, there was no films on THE [ROLLING] STONES, but they wanted to make one of us," he said. "And when it got previewed on VH1, eight million people watched it on its first run. And strangely enough, it actually got pretty positive reviews. So, with hindsight, I think we should maybe go back and look at that again."

DEF LEPPARD was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in March 2019 — 14 years after the British rockers first became eligible.

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