Jagger's New Swagger: Mick Moves to Movies, Blasts Idea of Memoir
On set in Mississippi as he starts up a new career as a Hollywood producer, the icon shrugs off the outcry over a white director for his James Brown biopic, reveals his brushes with rejection and vows never to write a rock autobiography like Keith Richards did: "If someone wants to know what I did in 1965, they can look it up on Wikipedia."
Fast-forward a year, and Jagger and Grazer were preparing to leave for their November trip to Natchez. Jagger first made a pitstop in Los Angeles, where they convened at a party at Jimmy Iovine's house.
"He danced for like an hour and a half straight," Grazer remembers. "R. Kelly was playing, and Mick got everyone dancing, even Oprah. You couldn't leave. He was magnetizing."
But it's the rocker's hands-on involvement with Get on Up and his other producing projects that has earned Jagger major props from studio executives and fellow producers. In fact, Jagger eschews the drive-by role often typical of a celebrity producer.
When Fox chief Jim Gianopulos was looking for input on marketing materials for the international release of the 2008 Rolling Stones documentary Shine a Light -- which Scorsese directed and Jagger produced -- he asked whom to contact. "I was told, 'You have to talk to Mick.' I thought, 'Oh, it's the Stones' publicist or their manager or some agent.' And I said, 'Mick who?' They said, 'Jagger.' I said, 'You're kidding.' "
Sure enough, Gianopulos found Jagger to have informed opinions on virtually every aspect of the production, from trailers to key art. Lurking behind Jagger's rock god persona was, he says, "a very creative, disciplined and intelligent businessperson."
Scorsese isn't surprised, arguing that Jagger's talents and his experience are sui generis. "Mick is absolutely alone in a very important sense -- he's a consummate artist, performer and businessman," he says. "I have a feeling that nothing escapes his notice. No detail is too small. So, here's a guy who has been at the center of the music industry for many years, on multiple levels, and he has what appears to be a perfect memory as well as a rich sense of character and of drama, of cinema. … Who could be a better artistic collaborator?"
Jagger has been gaining his footing as a producer for nearly two decades. He and Pearman bonded over their shared love of literature and formed Jagged Films in 1995. After stumbling upon Robert Harris' Enigma, a thriller about World War II code breakers first published in the U.K., he urged L.A.-based Pearman to acquire the rights. Lorne Michaels already owned the option, so Jagged teamed up with Michaels' Broadway Video. Jagger enlisted friend and Oscar winner Tom Stoppard to write the screenplay, and the 2001 Kate Winslet starrer became Jagged's first narrative feature credit. The film earned $15.7 million worldwide and earned mostly positive reviews.
Jagged Films' next project, Diane English's 2008 remake of The Women, didn't fare as well with critics, who eviscerated the performances of the buzzy cast that included Meg Ryan and Annette Bening. Still, the $16 million film earned $50 million worldwide. But aside from the occasional Stones documentary like Shine a Light, Jagger has been relatively quiet. Until now.
After Get on Up (Jagger's cameras simultaneously are rolling on the Brown documentary, helmed by Oscar winner Alex Gibney), Jagger will segue to the untitled Scorsese-Winter HBO series. The project, which Jagger originally pitched to Scorsese as a feature idea 10 years ago, is a decades-spanning chronicle of the changing music industry through the eyes of a fast-talking A&R executive. The pilot, which is being written by Breaking Bad's George Mastras, is scheduled to shoot early this year with Bobby Cannavale starring.
Jagger also hopes to begin filming Last Train to Memphis, the Elvis biopic, in early 2014. Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) is directing with Jagger's longtime friend Steve Bing co-producing. T Bone Burnett is the musical director. As with the casting of James Brown, Jagger knows that choosing the young Elvis will be a crucial, highly scrutinized decision. "The actor has to have a look, but they also gotta have that kind of magnetism," he says. "People would fall down at their feet [for Elvis]. You've got to make that be believable."
Further down the road is the Jagger-produced Fresh Tears, with Iain Softley in talks to direct. Jagger will play a supporting role in the coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of the music industry, which reunites the Hitchcock team of producer Tom Thayer and writer John McLaughlin.
Jagger chafes at the notion that he's focused only on music-themed projects. "Normally, people want to talk to me about being onstage, and if they want to hear about the film thing they go, 'Oh yeah,' " he says. "But I'm not just interested in doing musical films."
As proof, he points to Tabloid, a film that he will produce and star in, tackling the role of a Rupert Murdoch-esque media mogul. Oscar-nominated writer Josh Olson (A History of Violence) wrote the screenplay, and Bing is financing through his Shangri-La Entertainment. Jagger and Pearman also are producing Tiny Problems of White People with Dallas Buyers Club producer Rachel Winter. In the family drama written by Will Aldis, Jagger will play a mythical character named DeVere.
The two acting vehicles could help reverse the perception that Jagger never has been able to parlay his personal charisma onto the big screen. Michaels, for one, argues it's an unfair rap. "He's funny and smart, and you don't get to see that side," Michaels says, adding that he considers Jagger's 2012 Saturday Night Live hosting gig one of the best in recent years.
"It's easier on SNL as it is for Justin Timberlake, too," Michaels concedes. "They're already larger-than-life characters. It's hard if he's playing the bank manager in Philomena. You go, 'Hey, there's Mick Jagger.' "
For almost anyone, Jagger's to-do list would be daunting. And yet the soon-to-be great-grandfather (he has seven children and four grandchildren) is at a loss to fully explain why he's suddenly doing so many different things. "I've been doing it for quite a long time, you know," Jagger explains.
Compartmentalization, clearly, is necessary. "I watched the guy go from selling out the Barclays Center [in 2012] and then, a day later, sit in a meeting," Terence Winter says. "He just puts a different hat on and now he's a producer. It's like he's literally the biggest rock star in the world in the middle of a tour and then he can switch gears and just start talking about a script and story changes."
But even among Hollywood's most powerful, there's a sense that Jagger remains a unique creative partner, one who occupies a rarefied station among Tinseltown's rarefied. Gianopulos says he often finds himself in the middle of a business conversation and, "I think, 'Wow, I'm talking to Mick Freakin' Jagger,' " he quips. Fox 2000 head Elizabeth Gabler, who is working with Jagger on Last Train to Memphis, has worked with plenty of A-listers, but even she admits she was completely starstruck.
"I was nervous to meet him, and I thought that I would be speechless," Gabler says. "But I found him to be just so knowledgeable and passionate and engaged and completely in the present and funny. After a while, I forget that I've grown up with this person who is such a large part of our cultural landscape."