Enlarge From let to right: John Holliday, Desiré Varona, and Chris and Vicky Cornell.

Chris Cornell Estate: New Biopic Is “Not Sanctioned or Approved”

  • Axl Rosenberg

Somewhat overlooked amidst this past weekend’s news that a Seattle statue of Chris Cornell was recently vandalized was an announcement that in October, production will begin on Black Days, a biopic about the late Soundgarden singer.

And if you’re thinking, “Wait, they’re making a movie about Chris Cornell? Why isn’t this bigger news?”, that’s because, well… uh… here:

Cornell will be played by John Holiday (a.k.a. “Kid Memphis,” or “Johnny Holiday” on IMDB), a lesser-known actor and musician who played Carl Perkins in the 2005 Johnny Cash biopic, Walk the Line. He doesn’t have many other credits of note.

Yet to look at the first promotional images released for the movie, you’d think the dude was Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour or something.

Chris Cornell Estate: New Biopic Is “Not Sanctioned or Approved”

Cornell’s wife, Vicky, will be played by Desiré Varona, whose only other credit is a 2005 horror movie, Tower of Blood.

The movie’s official website, meanwhile, has little information of use. There’s not much there right now, other than an e-mail list sign-up and this claim, clearly meant to imply that Reese Witherspoon (who won an Oscar for Walk the Line) and/or Joaquin Phoenix are in Black Days:

Chris Cornell Estate: New Biopic Is “Not Sanctioned or Approved”

Meanwhile, the movie’s IMDB page doesn’t say who’s directing the movie, or who wrote it. But Pitchfork did some digging and found that the film “is apparently helmed by Road Rage Films LLC and Amerifilms LLC, which appears to be a company from” — you guessed it “actor and musician Johnny Holiday.” So it’s possible that Holiday is also directing. He has one other director’s credit, for a not-yet-released movie called Tender, about “A small town dad [who] takes the law in his hands when trying to find his little girl who went missing while riding her bike.” He stars in that movie as well.

It’s not entirely shocking, then, that Pitchfork also learned that Black Days  is “not sanctioned or approved by the estate” of Chris Cornell, which also says that “No one [from the Black Days production has] contacted the estate for any information.”

And here’s the thing: not involving a celebrity’s estate when making a biopic can be a good thing! Sure, you lose the rights to actually use that celebrity’s work (i.e., there will be no Soundgarden music in this movie), but you’re also not forced into a weird position where the flick ends up being a hagiography because the estate doesn’t want the subject to look bad (see: Notorious, produced by Biggie’s mom, or Straight Outta Compton or Bohemian Rhapsody or The Dirt or Rocketman, all produced by the artists themselves, or, for that matter, Walk the Line, produced by Johnny Cash and June Carter’s offspring). So you can be a little more honest.

Having said that… it doesn’t seem like a problem that Black Days is clearly low-rent, or that Cornell’s estate isn’t involved. But I am immediately suspicious that Holiday is making this whole thing so Holiday-centric despite the fact that he’s all but unknown. The whole thing feels like an ego-stroke from someone who hasn’t earned the right to have an ego. That makes it feel like Black Days isn’t interested in exploring the life of Chris Cornell so much as it’s interested in making Johnny Holiday famous. It’s hard enough to make a decent movie when you’re just trying to make a decent movie, y’know?

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