BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – Danny Boyle has always taken a very unique approach to every project he’s done, whether it’s a movie like “Trainspotting” or the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in summer of 2012. He was always a rebel with a cause.
It’s no wonder Boyle was compelled to take a look at a group of artists so unique they changed an industry and a generation. Boyle is the executive producer and director of the six-episode FX series “Pistol” which is set to debut Tuesday on Hulu.
The series – created and written by writer Craig Pearce – examines Britain’s rock ‘n’ roll revolution in the mid-70s led by the Sex Pistols, in particular founding member and guitarist, Steve Jones (Toby Wallace). Jones’ memoir, Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol, served as the basis for this series which examines how a group of rowdy working-class kids who seemed to have no future rattled off the boring and corrupt establishment.
Boyle knows the impact of the Sex Pistols well as he was a young man living in England when their musical mayhem exploded. It was easy for him to notice the group as they contrasted so much with the lackluster nature of England at the time.
“You felt like you were young and then you were old, and there was nothing in between,” Boyle says. “And they did something, the Pistols, they were the game-changing source for so many other people coming after them. And I think what they did is they gave a sense of timelessness.
“They said, ‘It’s yours.’ And what was different about them is that they said you can do whatever you want. [expletive deleted] you want with. You can waste it, be vacant, be futile or not; It’s yours.”
Despite the fact that the Sex Pistols lived in chaotic speed, the majority of the band members and those around them are still alive. This gave many actors the opportunity to choose the brains of the people they portrayed as researchers.
Wallace had the book Jones had written, but he also contacted the Sex Pistol guitarist for additional information, particularly about his relationship with Malcom McLaren (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) who was the band’s manager.
“I guess it was good because I had the book, and then I also had the real Steve who I got to meet and spend quite a bit of time with. So I always have to contact him for anything. kind of thing, like for the context in the script or something,” Wallace says. “But I think at the heart of him and the heart of our story was this traumatic experience that he had been through that gave rise to this type of anger that I think he shares with Malcolm.
“Out of anger came the Pistols because a lot of people could relate to that, especially in those kind of working-class places and those working-class people. So that was kind of the key for me personally.
Louis Partridge, who plays Sid Vicious, and Emma Appleton, who took on the role of Nancy Spungen, didn’t have such an opportunity. Spungen was murdered in 1978 and Vicious died of an overdose a year later.
The lack of opportunities to talk to the people they portrayed wasn’t a big deal for the actors. Appleton found the script gave him a deep understanding of Spungen.
“There was also the whole construction of the set where you could really immerse yourself in the world. Costumes, hair, makeup helped. Plus, we did our own research by watching documentaries, reading other resources,” says Appleton. “Then we threw ourselves into it.”
Partridge discovered during his research that there was almost too much material and that many of them contained conflicting views and ideas. The main task he faced in research was trying to figure out what was fact and what was fiction.
Despite the fact that Sid and Nancy passed away years ago, both actors approached the project with a deep respect for taking on roles based on real people.
“But, I was also always aware that it would be my interpretation and it was Craig’s writing and Danny’s direction,” Appleton says. “So you’re lifting something from a real person and, in a way, you’re the fictional one because we don’t know the conversations those people had or who they were when they were alone in their room. So we’re looking at him from a different perspective while still being sensitive in knowing that this was a real person.