And Finally Artist News

John Lydon calls Sex Pistols TV series “disrespectful”

By | Published on Monday 26 April 2021

John Lydon

John Lydon has called upcoming Sex Pistol’s TV drama ‘Pistol’ – directed by Danny Boyle – “the most disrespectful shit I’ve ever had to endure”. Although the series has not aired yet and he has not seen any of it. Still, he’s suggesting he might launch legal action.

The series, based on Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones’s autobiography ‘Lonely Boy’, is being made for Disney-owned US TV channel FX. Recently released photographs of the show, including of himself played by actor Anson Boon, seem to be the trigger for Lydon’s anger. He says that he has not been consulted about the series nor given his consent for his image to be used.

“Sorry, you think you can do this, like walk all over me – it isn’t going to happen”, he tells the Sunday Times. “Not without a huge, enormous fucking fight. I’m Johnny, you know, and when you interfere with my business you’re going to get the bitter end of my business as a result”.

“It’s a disgrace”, he adds. “I fronted this band. I’m the man that wrote the words. I supplied the image and direction, and I think the questions hang on their actions here. If they needed to be this secret squirrel about it then they must have something to hide”.

“I think that’s the most disrespectful shit I’ve ever had to endure”, he then says of seeing the promo photos for the show. “I mean they went to the point to hire an actor [Anson Boon] to play me but what’s that actor working on? Certainly not my character. It can’t go anywhere else [but court]”.

A spokesperson for ‘Pistol’ says that Boyle actually tried to contact Lydon through his management to discuss the show, but that “direct contact was declined”.

As for what Boon is using to inform his portrayal of Lydon, he might be able to get some material or insights from the musician’s more than 40 year public career, various documentaries and three autobiographies. It’s not like Lydon has kept himself a secret.

As for any legal action Lydon may pursue – while copyright law will be relevant if the band’s music is used in the TV show, and permission will be required from whoever controls those music rights – when it comes to the legal ramifications of telling the musician’s life story without his permission, he’d most likely be relying on so called publicity rights under US law.

There has been plenty of debate over the years about the possible impact of such rights on biopics, though movie and TV studios have generally pushed back hard at any suggestion that public figures should be able block dramatisations of their lives by enforcing such publicity rights. The right to freedom of expression under the US First Amendment being the grounds for that push back.

On any possible legal fight, Lydon says in the Sunday Times interview: “If you put me in a corner like a rat, I’m going go for your throat. I’m up against here some corporations that just want to take over. Poor old Johnny Rotten is the victim of Mickey Mouse”.

Whatever happens, Lydon’s anger is a great advertisement for the show, which began filming last month and does not as yet have a transmission date. And – any messy litigation pending – its makers may even agree that it would be almost disappointing if Johnny Rotten was pleased about the project.