EXCLUSIVE: Just a couple of days after they reunited for the first time in almost 40 years, we can reveal that UK band Frankie Goes To Hollywood is the subject of a new movie biopic from UK powerhouse Working Title and Independent Entertainment.
Titled Relax after the group’s 1983 hit single, and based on frontman Holly Johnson’s memoir A Bone In My Flute, the film is set to star It’s A Sin breakout Callum Scott Howells as Johnson.
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The project is heading to the Cannes market with Independent, which is handling sales, and we hear there is already strong interest in the package from potential buyers. Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner will produce for Working Title and Luc Roeg is producing for Independent Entertainment.
The film was written and will be helmed by Bernard Rose, director behind the original Relax music video, 1992’s horror classic Candyman, and Howard Marks biopic Mr. Nice. Additional casting is underway.
Universal Music, who hold the band’s catalogue, are understood to be supportive of the project which is due to feature their hit songs from the ’80s.
The Liverpudlian group, also well known for number one hits Two Tribes and The Power of Love, were among the UK’s biggest pop groups of the ’80s.
However, they disbanded acrimoniously in 1987 — with reports of a fight before a gig at Wembley Stadium — and didn’t perform together again until Monday night when they played one song at a concert in Liverpool ahead of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.
Their controversial hit song Relax, which celebrates homosexual love, was banned by the BBC in 1984 while at number six in the charts. It subsequently went on to top the UK Singles Chart for five weeks and become the sixth best-selling UK single of all time. In the U.S., the song reached number 10 on the Hot 100 and was voted best song of the year by listeners to LA’s KROQ station. The movie will explore the song’s genesis and impact.
Howells was one of the breakout stars of Channel 4’s lauded ’80s-set Aids crisis drama It’s A Sin. The drama scored 12 BAFTA nominations, including a best supporting actor nod for Howells.
excited and honoured
welcome to the pleasuredome 💋 https://t.co/CJ8P6od4v8
— Callum Scott Howells (@callumshowells) May 10, 2023
Tim Bevan, Co-Chairperson of Working Title, said: “Working Title is always looking to champion British stories and so the opportunity to shine a light on Frankie Goes To Hollywood, a British band who truly revolutionised the UK music industry, was a natural fit for us. Working under the direction of Bernard Rose, the project will star exciting young talent, Callum Scott Howells in the lead, and Independent Entertainment as partner. We can’t wait to get started.”
Luc Roeg of Independent Entertainment commented: “Frankie Goes To Hollywood were an unflinching ground-breaking band that paved the way for so many young performers today. Partnering with Working Title to bring their story to the screen is incredibly exciting. We can’t think of anyone better than Bernard Rose, and our talented young lead, Callum Scott Howells, to bring this iconic moment in pop history to life.
Rose added: “Combining the wit of the Beatles, the power of The Rolling Stones and the outrage of The Sex Pistols, Frankie Goes To Hollywood went from unemployed Liverpudlians to Kings of pop on the back of their epic banned record Relax. In 1984 they outsold Prince, Madonna, Michael Jackson and Duran Duran. Their epic rise, bringing the then deeply underground S+M and LGBTQ club scene screaming into the limelight, is the energetic and moving story of underdogs that win one for the ages. I was very much a part of the hoopla, having directed the original ‘banned’ Relax video and I want to bring that innocent and daring world of 1984 back to life for a new audience today…”
Bridget Jones, Les Miserables and Billy Elliot producer Working Title most recently produced What’s Love Got To Do With It? and Matilda The Musical. Production and sales company Independent most recently produced Harry Styles drama My Policeman.
Rose is represented by Casarotto Ramsay & Associates. Scott Howells is represented by Lou Coulson Associates and Anonymous Content.
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