Become Johnny Rotten, when John Lydon would rather you didn't

LONDON — Anson Boon gave Johnny Rotten everything he had, including a front tooth. Boon portrays the punk leader in “ Gun a new limited...


LONDON — Anson Boon gave Johnny Rotten everything he had, including a front tooth.

Boon portrays the punk leader in “Guna new limited series charting the meteoric rise and fall of Rotten’s band the Sex Pistols, and the tooth was lost recreating one of Rotten’s “most spirited performances,” the actor said. 22 years old in a recent interview. “I hit my face against the mic by accident.”

Sitting in a north London park, a mile from where Rotten grew up, Boon unfolded a list of other injuries he suffered during the six months of filming: he fractured his tailbone when he fell on a battery ; zealous singing has dislocated his jaw; he spent several hours a day bent over to imitate the posture of the musician, and still suffers from it today.

This roll call is, in some ways, appropriate. Rotten – who now goes by his real name, John Lydon – was one of the pioneers of the London punk movement of the 1970s, known for his “divine madness”, as John Rockwell wrote in the New York Times in 1977 and for overseeing concerts where chairs were thrown and noses were bloodied.

“Pistol” – which begins streaming Tuesday on Hulu in the US and on Disney+ in other territories – is Boon’s most significant screen role to date, following stage stints in London and the movies like “1917” by Sam Mendes.

Despite the injuries, he “loved the intensity” of playing the Pistols leader, Boon said. Besides, “It’s not rotten to give up. I just had to push through,” he added.

This determination was already clear to Danny Boyle, who directs the series, when he saw Boon’s audition tape. One of the scenes featured by Boon was Rotten auditioning for the Pistols while singing Alice Cooper’s “I’m Eighteen” into a broken showerhead. Boon sang into a toilet brush.

Her parents looked at the tape and asked her, “’Are you sure you can send this? You really went there,” he recalls. Boon thought he would get the part or the casting team would never let Boyle see it.

It turned out that the director loved it. The tape was “repulsive and magnetic at the same time,” Boyle said in a recent phone interview.

Boon realized he had to “turn into Rotten”. But he only knew the Sex Pistols’ most famous songs – ‘God Save the Queen’ and ‘Anarchy in the UK’ – and meeting Lydon was not an option.

The show is based on “Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol”, the autobiography of guitarist Steve Jones, who has not spoken to Lydon since 2008. While all of the other living band members are consultants for “Pistol,” Lydon disavowed the project from the start. In 2021, the leader was chased by his former bandmates for refusing to agree to allow the band’s music for the show; Lydon lost the case. He declined to be interviewed for this article.

Boon’s research process was therefore rigorous. He read “Lonely Boy”, as well as “Defying Gravity: Jordan’s Story”, a memoir by Jordan Moony, a friend of the band who is played in the show by Maisie Williams. Boon also created what he called a “rotten museum” on his laptop, collecting photos, videos and graphics from Rotten’s life to keep track of how he changed, Boon said, from a “shy kid” to a famous punk artist.

“You usually have to tell young actors to be diligent and do their research,” Boyle said. “We had to tell Anson when to stop. He became obsessed with him. He knows more about him than me.

For three months, Boon and his co-stars also took part in a band camp, led by British electronic band Underworld, who composed “Pistol.” The hard work seemed to pay off in February 2021, when Mooney came to see the cast during rehearsals. At his request, they sang the Pistols track “Holiday in the Sun”. After they were done, Mooney approached Boon, “‘Thank you,'” he remembered her saying. “‘I feel like I’m seeing the Sex Pistols again.'”

It took a team to get the actors to this point. A dialect coach helped Boon pinpoint Rotten’s accent and lisp. A movement instructor helped him mimic Rotten’s pose.

His vocal coach, Anne-Marie Speed, helped raise Boon’s singing voice two octaves to match Rotten’s register, “in the same way you might teach a dancer to do the splits,” Boon said. . The process was arduous. Afterwards, “I had to have acupuncture in my head because there would be so much pressure buildup,” he said.

Each day on set, Boon would go through an hour and a half of hair and makeup prep, wearing brown wigs and false teeth, while listening to interviews with Rotten “to get into his contrarian voice and mentality. “, did he declare.

Boon said he wanted to make sure the world created by Boyle and the show’s screenwriter, Craig Pearce, doesn’t feel “like a caricature,” he said. “I had to be surrounded by everything, completely enveloped in it, to make it feel real.”

Toby Wallace, who plays Jones on the show, saw Boon “going through these wild and risky choices, and committing to all of them,” he said in a phone interview.

When Kate Winslet played Boon’s mother in the 2019 film “Blackbird“, she acknowledged a similar dedication. “I’ve never met a young actor who isn’t afraid to leap into the deep like Anson does,” Winslet said in an email interview.

The sense of responsibility Boon felt playing Rotten was only “amplified” by the fact that Lydon didn’t want to be involved, the actor said. Recently, Lydon criticized the show on Twitter and in British tabloidswhich only “makes it even more expensive,” Boon said.

Boyle thinks Boon did Rotten justice. “He did his due diligence,” Boyle said. “He believed in himself”, the same way “John would have”.

For months after filming, Boon automatically sat with his friends in the pub, he said. And the show rubbed off on him in other ways. Thanks to Rotten, “I discovered this punk spirit,” said Boon, who still lives in Peterborough, a medieval town in the east of England.

Does this spirit still live in him? “I would definitely like to think so,” Boon said. And just in case, he has this false tooth to remind him.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Become Johnny Rotten, when John Lydon would rather you didn't
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